Apolyton Demogame: Bananarama

In order to understand the PAL/Banana conflict, we first have to go back to discuss the relationship between Realms Beyond and Donovan Zoi, the replacement Banana player. Over the course of many months, our teams had worked together and built up a deep-rooted alliance of mutual interest, which would play a critical role in the ending stages of the Demogame. This is a brief summary of those interactions that led up to our effective partnership.

First of all, the "original" Banana team was unquestionably the least-talented of any of the six teams. The same individuals had formed a team in the first Civ4 Democracy game at Apolyton (one in which Realms Beyond did not take part), which saw Team Banana become the first team to be eliminated from the game, before even reaching the AD years! That group was back again, and it was apparent from their posts in the General Forum that they were more interested in spamming little banana emoticons than making any real effort to win the game. Their early game was nothing less than a trainwreck, as Team Banana made no attempt to expand and instead sat around in their capital wasting time on useless infrastructure builds. Even worse, the original Banana team simply disappeared a couple months into the game: no one playing the turns, units and workers sitting around unmoved, cities building nothing, no expansion taking place. And remember, this was on the same continent where PAL was easily defeating the Rabbits! With Rabbits losing their conflict and Banana not even playing their turns, PAL was being handed the game on easy street. PAL built their SEVENTH city in a spot right next to Banana's capital, taking advantage of their non-existent opponent. What a disaster!

Our team fortunately noted that Team Banana had dropped out of the game, noticing that no one was logging in to play their turns on CivStats, and requested that a replacement of some kind be found. Eventually, that turned out to be Donovan Zoid, or Donovan for short, who would become the one-man Banana team. Donovan had the unenviable task of inheriting a team that was dead last in every conceivable statistical measure, and one which PAL looked to be able to crush at its leisure. Banana had missed at least five turns when the team was abandoned, and it may have been closer to ten, a crippling blow in the early phases of the game. Here was the situation:

Banana actually had a pretty good starting position, with tons of seafood and stone on hand for production. (This was unquestionably a far superior capital to Airstrip One!) However, the original Banana team had wasted this fertile land, and at the time of the takeover had settled a mere two cities! In 80 turns of play! The new Banana management fortunately was smart enough to rectify this error, settling to the northeast to secure iron and then racing west to grab the remaining good land before PAL could take it. Still, the damage had largely been done already. The jungle area in the center should have been contested between Banana and PAL. Instead, the absent Banana team meant that PAL gained control of nearly the whole thing, including seizing a source of horses that really should have been Banana's. Here's a map from later in the game demonstrating how badly Banana was squeezed by PAL:

Pi-Ramesses was PAL's seventh city, and it effectively cut Banana's territory in half. It stole away gems and horses from what should have been Banana territory. Furthermore, its culture created a wedge (or "salient" to use a military term) that nearly bisected Banana ground, making attack easy for PAL and defense extremely difficult for Banana. Poor Donovan was in bad, bad shape here. Behind in technology and with extremely poor production, Banana was desperate for allies if it was going to survive.

Donovan has kindly opened up the Banana forum and posted his correspondences with the other teams, making it possible to write this portion of the Demogame's history. At the time that Donovan took over, he lacked contact with any teams other than PAL and the Rabbits, due to the awkward geography of the eastern continent. Donovan tried to reach out to the Rabbits first:

Banana to Rabbits:

This is Donovan Zoi, newest member of Team Banana. I am not sure what has happened to the team here, so I am placing myself in charge until I hear from AT or Omnistar.

What can you tell me about your war with PAL? Are they sending a lot of troops your way? I am trying to get an idea of how we may be able to assist, if at all, and finding out the type and number of troops in your view would help my assessments. We will have Alphabet next turn, so I think that means we can trade tech next turn.

Anything you can tell me to get me up to speed would be appreciated. I'll be in touch!

Donovan Zoi

But unfortunately the Rabbits never responded to this email. We at Realms Beyond found the same problem: we would send emails to the Rabbits, and they would never send anything back. While Rabbits should be commended for surviving so long against PAL, their diplomacy in this game was simply awful. Banana and Realms Beyond both wanted closer cooperation with their team, and yet the Rabbits did nothing with our messages... even the ones where we stated we wanted to gift techs to their team! Leaving aside disappointment from things not going well with Rabbits, I don't understand why you would bother playing a game like this if you had no intention of responding to emails.

Next, Donovan happened to find a Templar work boat by coincidence (Templars were not out scouting, as usual) and tried to initiate diplomacy there as well. For a time, things proceeded very nicely:

Templars to Banana:
Hello Donovan Zoi and other members of Team Banana,

The holy order of the Knights Templar greets you. We have received a message in game that we have met you, hence this message.

The Templars would like to establish warm and friendly relations with your team to the benefit of both our teams. We look forward to extensive cooperation with your team.

In order to show our good intentions and to provide you with an opportunity for trade, we offer you to trade Alphabet to us in exchange for one or a combination of the following techs: Monotheism, Priesthood and Metal Casting.

We realize that such a tech trade would at the moment not be balanced, so we suggest that one of our teams will compensate the other in a more favorable tech deal next time around. To that end we hope we can set up a tech trading scheme with your team to profit as much as we can from tech exchanges.

We hope we do not overwhelm you with this offer for cooperation. If there is anything else, do not hesitate to contact us.

Do you or your team (preferably) have an email address where we can contact you?

One last point: how would you like to be addressed? Bananians, Banana's or something different?


Banana to Templars:
Honorable Members of the Knights Templar,

Thank you for your quick and cordial response to our in-game request to enter discussions. I received separate PMs from both Hercules and Aidun and will do my best to answer the inquiries from both.

First, I was asked by Hercules to confirm that our meeting was valid, and it is. One of our sentried Archers caught sight of your Workboat just off the western shore of wherever it is we are. I can also attest to the fact that the Templars were not present on my FA screen as of last turn.

In regards to Aidun's message, we at Team Banana are pleased at the prospect of a trading strategy that may allow our teams to scale the tech ladder faster than each of us are currently. In fact, you will find a pending trade from us (not sure if you will see it this turn or next; I am new to pitboss) where we offer Alphabet and Fish for Metal Casting. That coincidence alone shows that we are on the same page; we threw in the Fish in the interest of an even trade due to the difference in research costs. Of course, we are open to negotiation if you would like to tweak this deal.

Also, as a show of goodwill on our part, we have begun to research Mathematics. Shall we work out our trade strategy now, while we save ourselves some espionage points?

Long story short, Team Banana is not overwhelmed in the slightest at your eagerness for cooperation. I don't think I would be showing my hand by stating that Bananian leadership has been a revolving door at best for quite some time; that can be seen by anyone that bothers to keep tabs on the logins at Civstats.com. However, I have pledged to stay aboard to right this ship ASAP, and a solid trading partner would help matters immensely. If you are interested in further strategic plans, I would be interested in what your team has in mind along those lines as well.

Lastly, the email address is as you see it in the 'from' box. And for the time being, you can address us as Donovan. I am running the show alone at the moment, although I intend to recruit some advisors shortly. Once they and the wayward founders have arrived home, I guess you can call us the Bananas.

I (we?) look forward to future cooperation with your team and hope to hear from you soon regarding our impending trade. Please feel free to message us (me) at the yahoo email whenever it suits you.

Donovan Zoi

Cooperation between the Templars and Banana thus got off to a good start. And for about a month, Templars and Banana traded techs freely back and forth, which helped out both teams considerably. Templars and Banana were two of the weakest teams in the game, with no territorial designs on one another, making such cooperation a natural fit. During this period, Donovan traded Alphabet to Templars for Metal Casting, then when Banana discovered Machinery tech by use of a Great Engineer lightbulb, Donovan fronted the tech to Templars in exchange for the promise of future techs in return! That was an extremely generous move, one which the Templars didn't seem to acknowledge with its proper due.

After getting Machinery tech, the Templars simply stopped responding... at all. Donovan states that he had to "shake them down for the tech they still owed us":

Banana to Templars:
Aidun and Team Templar,

I was just accosted by the Bananian Loose Ends department, who had asked me to get a time estimate as to when we can complete our previous trade. How many turns until you discover Theology?

I myself understand that it may still be a few turns, but you know how these bureaucratic types can get. Please drop me a line whenever you get a chance.

Hope all is well with you and your team.


Thus while Donovan did eventually force Theology tech out of Templars (which was in itself still not even close to the value of Machinery tech that Banana had fronted to Templars some five weeks earlier!), it was a difficult and laborious process. The Templars insisted on a promise that Banana not build the Apostolic Palace wonder, which Donovan correctly pointed out in an email back, "I am a bit surprised that you are now putting conditions on a finalized deal, especially when we granted you Machinery in good faith much earlier than we could have." The last email exchange between the teams came about as Donovan rightly asked the Templars why they had unilaterally backed out of the three-way tech exchange planned between Banana, Templars, and Realms Beyond:

Banana to Templars:
Team Templar,

It has recently come to my attention that you have decided against including the Realms Beyond team in the 3-way trade I had proposed earlier, by accepting Construction from another source. While I cannot understand why you would turn this offer down, I'd like to know if the Calendar for Drama trade between our teams is still on.

In the interest of continued partnership between Teams Templar and Banana, I am willing to continue on with our part of this trade, despite the difference in research cost. However, I now feel it is time for us to renegotiate your use of our Fish, which was granted nearly 25 turns ago as part of our Alphabet/Metal Casting trade. At the time it was initiated, I never placed a duration on this aspect of the trade. What duration do you think is fair, and what could you offer to maintain this resource once reasonable duration (that we both agree upon) has expired?

In closing, any enlightenment you can give me regarding your hesitancy to work with the Realms team would be helpful. You have my word that I will not disclose your reasons to them, though I may continue to lobby for this arrangement until I have a decent enough reason to make me stop asking.

I look forward to your response, and to the continued cooperation between our two nations.

Donovan Zoi

To which the Templars sent back a stalling non-answer. (Their real answer, of course, was that they were planning a sneak attack against Realms Beyond!) So the diplomacy between Banana and Templars stalled out and went nowhere, Templars making no effort to build friendship from Donovan and merely grabbing whatever advantageous deals they could get. In fact, the Templars did not initiate contact between their teams a single time after early February of 2009! (Every other message was Templars simply responding to a Banana contact.) For the Templars, this was a huge missed opportunity. They could have turned Banana into a strong ally with ease, since they were Banana's first contact with the western continent and Donovan desperately needed assistance. Instead of Aidun claiming that the Templars lost because they were "stabbed in the back too many times to count", they should simply acknowledge that their team played a lousy diplomatic game. Templars angered and invaded Realms Beyond, and pushed away Team Banana - neither of which was foreordained, and both of which were entirely on their own heads.

Realms Beyond and Banana did not meet until quite late in the game, not until the very end of February. (The game had been going on since May of the previous year.) Banana was the last team that we contacted, although not by our choice; the geography of the map made contact extremely difficult between our teams. At this point in time, the international situation of Realms Beyond was pretty dire. Templars and Imperio were secretly hostile to us, and unwilling to engage in any trades. PAL was in a clear first-place situation, and trading with them was a Prisoner's Dilemma that only put PAL further ahead. Rabbits had been decimated by warfare, and were much too weak to serve as any kind of tech partner. Thus, almost by default, all our hopes rested on establishing friendly relations with Team Banana.

Yet Banana's position was at least as bad as ours, if not worse. Donovan didn't want to trade with PAL either, as their team was a sword dangerously poised above his head, ready to fall at any moment. He had already tried to work with Rabbits and Templars, and neither team was doing much to respond. Banana had no contact with Imperio as yet. Thus Donovan was pretty much out of options as well. He had had to sign a lengthy Non-Aggression Pact with PAL (for 60 turns, lasting until T167) in order to avoid a military conflict that would crush his fledgling civilization. Banana desperately needed to start teching and trading its way up the tree, to be in a position to survive the inevitable PAL attack when that 60 turns was up. A partnership with Realms Beyond was the lifeline out of the trap into which Banana had fallen.

Our negotiations hit it off pretty much right away. We agreed to trade Monarchy, Aesthetics, and Literature to Banana in return for Machinery (when we could trade for it, as Realms Beyond lacked Metal Casting at the moment) and a supply of Banana's iron temporarily. We wanted the iron because Imperio had sabotaged our copper with their spy:

Realms Beyond to Banana:
Hi Donovan,

Sorry for the delay in replying, there's been quite a lot going on over at Team RB in the last day or so.

As to your counter-proposal, we respect your position, but we feel the price you want for Iron is too high. For us, Iron would only be a short-term insurance policy to cover our temporary lack of metal, and, as such, the premium you are asking for is too large. Philosophy has been taken off the table because we have decided against using our Great Scientist to lightbulb this tech.

We would be happy to improve our original offer by giving you the techs over the first two turns of the deal. This would enable you to use your marble for National Epic. Let us know your thoughts on this.

Longer term, we would be interested in making an agreement that sees you research Feudalism and Guilds, and us research Paper and Education. Our research path is 1001 more beakers, but I'm sure we can find a way of balancing the deal. We hope that the security of protective Longbows without delaying your access to a key development tech like Education will make this an attractive proposal. We don't need a definitive answer straight away, but we like to know your initial impression about this idea.

Best Regards

Banana to Realms Beyond:
Swiss Pauli and Members of Ralms Beyond Team,

After further consideration, we have decided to accept your proposal under the following conditions:

1. Since we are not granting Compass to you now, we want to be your fair market source for this tech once you find a need for it.

2. At some point, we may have a similar need to "borrow" your Horses. Should such a time arise, we would like the same consideration that you have been given by us (looking at it in a strictly numeric fashion, you are getting Iron for a steal at 143 research points!).

3. If I were ever to find green-suited Macemen suddenly on our shores, I would sure feel a bit stupid. Therefore, our team would like to enter talks for a non-aggression pact, preferably for 40 turns or more.

If your team accepts these minor requests from Team Banana, we will send Iron to you by 0500 GMT ( midnight EST). I won't be at my home computer until then. We would like Monarchy and Aesthetics this turn, and Literature on Turn 115. You will receive Machinery from us on the same turn you acquire Metal Casting.

In regards to your future trade proposal, I will have to give it some thought. There are some lower level techs I would like to get first (Calendar, Currency, Music) but would definitely welcome further discussion on your proposal. What tech are you currently researching?

That's all I have for now. I look forward to your response, and to future enlightenments!

Donovan Zoi

We assured Donovan that we did indeed want to trade for Compass in the future (as we had no intentions of researching it ourselves), that we would make our horses available upon request (which we did, later on), and that we also definitely wanted to sign a Non-Aggression Pact. Our teams would bounce a lot of ideas back and forth, with Banana eventually agreeing to research the bottom part of the tech tree while we researched the top. In the meantime, Donovan kindly provided us with iron for a long period of time (we sent him our copper back in return as soon as it was reconnected), allowing us to train pikemen and give Templars and Imperio a nasty surprise when they invaded!

Unlike the Templars, we talked to Donovan constantly, negotiating one thing or another, and sometimes simply chatting to say hi. We usually sent at least one email per week, and frequently as many as three or four, during a period that stretched for months on end. Over time we built closer and closer trust and friendship, to the point where both teams were eventually sharing knowledge of our military units and planning out joint attacks against targets of mutual interest. Without getting into too much detail, here is a brief listing of the deals that our teams worked out, Realms Beyond on the left and Banana on the right:

* Monarchy + Aesthetics + Literature for Machinery and iron access
* 40 turns Non-Aggression Pact starting T114
* Horseback Riding for Compass
* Construction for Calendar [three-way deal, with the Templars backing out on supplying Drama]
* Non-Aggression Pact upgraded to one with an automatic renewal every 20 turns, unless a team gives notice
* Engineering for Feudalism
* Realms Beyond offers a 1000 beaker credit in return for Banana not trading for Feudalism with Imperio
* Nationalism for Guilds (using up said 1000 beaker credit)
* Agreement for both teams to spend 43 Espionage Points against the other and no more
* Realms Beyond gifts Drama to Banana
* Dyes for incense
* Realms Beyond gifts wines and silks to Banana
* Non-Aggression Pact extended to T200
* Map exchange
* Banana gifts Banking to Realms Beyond (due to accidental trading mixup with Imperio)
* Education for Astronomy
* Printing Press for Chemistry

We loved the fact that Donovan responded so quickly; with the Templars, Imperio, and Rabbits it had always been a game of "wait and see" if they would EVER answer, much less do so in timely fashion. But Donovan invariably got back to us within 48 hours, and usually a good deal less than that. It was so nice to work with someone wasn't crazy, and would actually sit down and bargain back and forth in rational fashion! Donovan really seemed to value our friendship, being kind enough not to screw us over with Imperio, when he could have backed out of our planned Engineering for Feudalism trade and done a similar deal with their team. Yet we held up our end of every agreement as well, including presenting Donovan with the 1000 beaker credit that we promised him for not making that same trade. Tit for tat. Banana was the only team that ever dealt fairly with us, and we were the only team that dealt fairly with him. Is it any wonder then that our cooperation was so close? (PAL accused our team of recruiting one of our friends to take over for Team Banana, which was an outright lie and a cheap shot on their part. None of us had ever contacted Donovan prior to this Demogame. We worked so closely together because it was in our mutual interest to do so.)

That's not to say that there weren't occasional strains in the relationship. During the war between Realms Beyond and Templars/Imperio, our research rate dropped pretty significantly, and we had to ask Donovan to front us technology on a number of occasions before our side of the deal was ready. Banking tech in particular was a sore spot; we were nowhere close to having our side of the deal finished, and yet we pleaded for Banana to share with us well ahead of time so that we could get some banks going and improve our own research rate. Donovan could have been stingy and refused, yet he did exactly the opposite and was a true ally to our team throughout. In return, we were absolutely planning to give him any and all assistance required to survive the impending PAL/Banana war. True, this was in our own interest - PAL was our main rival to win the game. But it was in Banana's interest too; after all, we could simply sit back and let PAL and Banana weaken each other and delay intervening until PAL had been seriously damage. Still, that was hardly the way to treat an ally, and instead our team was planning on full military intervention as soon as we were finished with Imperio. Thus Banana's assistance was not merely throwing the game to Realms Beyond to spite PAL, but a determined move to ensure the survival of his team. In fact, Donovan quite possibly played the best diplomatic game of anyone, which is really impressive given how he entered the Demogame halfway!

So that brings up back to the present, the tense situation leading up to the outbreak of a PAL/Banana conflict. Everyone knew this was coming, since Banana's long-running NAP with PAL was due to expire on T167. PAL even came sniffing around to our team, wanting to reopen borders and establish trading connections, in an obvious attempt to drive a wedge between our team and Banana. But we weren't falling for it, and MyOtherCar drew up this little image that we passed on to Donovan:

Then all of a sudden everything started happening at once:

We need to get Donovan into a chat ASAP. In the last 24 hours, we've seen:

- PAL sign peace with Rabbits.
- PAL trade for Military Tradition (cuirassiers) with Imperio.
- PAL conduct FOUR double-whips.

It's blatantly obvious that a PAL attack is coming within the next few turns, probably the instant that their NAP runs out. If Banana goes down before we control our continent, our chances of winning the game fall precipitously. We need to let Donovan know what's coming at the very least, and even better hopefully come up with some kind of tactical plan!

Can someone please send off an email with this info? Thanks.

Chatted with banana in-game. No need to chat in the chatroom today.

Main points:

He was annoyed at Imperio giving PAL military tradition. He asked us if we could attack them out of vindictiveness. I let him know that it is a possibility and we don't have a NAP but they think we do. That's a lot of privilaged information and I was hesitant to give it out but hey, gotta trust some people.

He wants to trade astro to Imperio for MilTrad, since it's his only shot at it. Astro is due for him T167, his next GP is due T166. After the trade goes through he's planning to cancel their resource deals.

He said he'd be done with horses definitely T168, possibly T167.

He's planning to attack PAL on T167 or T168. Brave man!

In other words, PAL had secured peace with Rabbits upon capturing the city that held iron. With their new iron resources, PAL began whipping out large numbers of cannon and cuirassier, which could only be intended to be used against Banana. However, Donovan told us that he was planning a counter-attack of his own to start at the same time! The eastern continent looked like it was about to explode into a violent frenzy of warfare any turn now.

We asked sunrise to look at the situation and offer some tactical thoughts for Donovan. He drew up this map:

The idea was to use a stack of 2-move units to raze Pi-Ramesses immediately, much as our team would do against Imperio's capital of Mutal. If Pi-Ramesses could be removed, that would expand Banana's cultural borders and provide a much easier front to defend. If Donovan wasn't able to raze that intruding PAL city, we weren't too optimistic about his prospects in the war, as PAL could strike at no less than five different Banana cities at their leisure. Splitting up defenders is the biggest thing of all to avoid in Multiplayer; the main reason we had survived so well against Imperio was the fact that they could only attack us at Cape Town, allowing us to mass defenders in one spot.

This was not a good tactical situation for Banana!

We were chatting pretty regularly by now with Donovan, and a couple of us leaned on him to start producing some military. Like - immediately. Donovan needed units yesterday if he was going to hold out against PAL's monster armies (which included cannon!) We were extremely impressed with the result of our chats:

Yep, Banana ended their turn so I logged in to take a look. Seems as though Donovan got the message, because he's gone absolutely apesh*t with the draftings and whippings. Banana burned through 14 pop (!!!) before last turn ended, and then another 5 pop on the current turn. That's the maximum of six drafted units for sure, plus another eight pop on several unit whips. Even though this is going to decimate Banana research capability (which is based on running lots of specialists), it's great news for us! Go Donovan!

That changed the Power graph from looking like this:

To looking like this:

Nice work! Now at least Donovan would have a fighting chance. And on the very same turn that we plunged the dagger into Imperio's back, Banana was making their move over in the east. Donovan declared war, and moved on the PAL city of Giza with two-movers, burning it to the ground!

And the mutual "Mission Accomplished!" messages going back and forth:

Realms Beyond to Banana:

As you may have seen, RB and Imperio are now at war. We believe you may have suspected this, and we appreciate you not spoiling the surprise to Imperio. We also apologize for not formally including you in our war plans. We view this operation, which was planned in part before even T100, as absolutely essential to our goal of stopping PAL from winning the game. Unfortunately that meant not even sharing details or it with our friends.

We also wanted to tell you some of our reasons for fighting Imperio:

*Imperio pillaged and sabotaged RB land during our previous NAP (before they attacked us).
*Imperio declared war on RB.
*Imperio was willing to betray their Templar allies, so it was hard to believe that they would not betray us as well, which meant we could never attack PAL without a huge army at home.
*As part of the same peace deal that included current NAP Imperio agreed to trade us Gunpowder and to attack Templars. They did neither of these things, invalidating the agreement.
*Imperio was never willing to work against PAL to stop them from winning, and in fact continued to trade with them and maintain open borders.

Anyways, the war has started and apparently Imperio's turn player is pretty mad. We'll let you know how things go. We also wanted to tell you we're discussing ways to share the spoils of war with you, but no details quite yet.


PS After seeing your actions, we have only one thing to add:
Donovan, you kick ass! We love you, man!

Banana to Realms Beyond:
Greeting Realms Team!

Well, it looks like the fun is about to begin. As you will soon see, we have declared on PAL this turn and have already razed the city of Giza. I am not sure if we will be able to take any other cities in the meantime, unless we can compensate for our disadvantage with a killer game of Civ-chess. We will likely bunker in for now unless an opportunity arises.

Congratulations on your taking of two (!) Imperio cities! That certainly was a surprise, and also made it look like we orchestrated the whole thing. Let 'em wonder. In the meantime, I trust you are preparing documentation for the Disputes thread re: Naldo's accusation. Should be an interesting spectacle.

I talked with Dreylin in-game and we agreed to trade world maps. I hope this was okay with the entire team, as Dreylin seemed to think it would be no problem. It looks like you will have Constantinople out of revolt next turn -- does that mean I can get Horses back? I hate to ask, but it seems that mobilty is the only thing that's going to get me back out of the bunker.

Also, regarding your conquest of Damascus --- where will you head next? I have 2 Galleon I may be able to gift if you are able to take Calakmul. That would put you right across from the Warning, after which we could divide and conquer.

Sounds like another chat may be in order. Drop me a line when you get a chance.


The key phrase in this exchange was Donovan's mention of having galleons in the water in the narrow "Channel" that separated the two continents. We asked Donovan for their exact location, and he told us they were near Omni Point, just to the south of Acre... and also barely a half-dozen tiles away from The Warning. Now Banana had researched Astronomy way back when we both thought the tech would be necessary to preserve our intercontinental trade routes. The collapse of Templars had made that a moot point, however Banana's possession of Astronomy tech opened up some interesting opportunities for use of those galleons. There was an extremely brief window of action before PAL completed their own research into Astronomy. If we could get some striking power on those galleons, and move on PAL's awesome research capital before they were able to build their own upgraded naval units to counter...

I laid out the basis for what would become known as "Operation NTSC" (anyone get that?) in our forum first:

Dreylin and Swiss also had a series of in-game chats with Donovan; the conversations are posted in the Banana thread. Now there's plenty of interesting info in there, however the critical tidbit is that PAL currently has nothing more than a mace and a spear in The Warning (!) The PAL capital is one of the strategic keys to this map, as it's geared towards science and has library, university, three monasteries, Oxford, and benefits from PAL running Bureaucracy. Burn that location down, and PAL's teching rate is drastically curtailed, maybe by as much as 50%. Remove The Warning, and our odds of winning this game go from "possible" to "likely".

Meanwhile, Banana has also told us that they have a pair of galleons free for naval duty. This makes all the difference in the world, and we have to get Banana to use those galleons against PAL before they finish researching Astronomy (4t) and get their own navy into the water. Once frigates appear in the Channel, it will rule out a decapitation strike against the PAL capital. The time to act is right now!!!

But we ourselves don't really want to jump into a war with PAL, as that will get them seriously pissed at us and we're going to be overflowing with war weariness from Imperio. Far better to let Donovan take the WW [war weariness] hit and the brunt of PAL's anger - and don't you think Donovan would like to be the one burning down PAL's capital? I think he'd be more than willing to go for that! So here's the steps I want us to take:

- Gift Acre to Banana.
- Get Donovan to bring his pair of galleons to the tile one east of Acre.
- Make sure those galleons are full with the maximum six units. If there aren't enough Banana units to spare, we temporarily loan some RB units to Banana to fill those ships.
- Banana moves four tiles northeast, does a naval assault on The Warning, and burns it to the ground.
- Galleons sail back to Acre and return surviving units back to RB control.

Now we *WILL* capture Acre next turn. The city is empty (Imperio cleared out the defenders), and it's in revolt so it cannot whip out another unit. The rationale for gifting Acre to Banana is pretty simple: we're badly overexpanded at the moment and can't afford another unnecessary city, the location is culture-crushed by Banana anyway, and it would be useful for Donovan to have a city on our continent (which we can always take back quickly if Banana turns on us). Seems like a no-brainer to me, and it generates a LOT of goodwill for us with Donovan. I can't imagine that he would say no, since Banana seems desperate for more cities.

Assuming that our team concurs on the idea of gifting Acre to Banana, the next thing to do is get across the details of the naval attack to Banana, and convince them of going along with it. (This will require some close communication, and probably some chat sessions. But we can do it because Banana will have visibility on PAL's cities at all times, and that makes a huge difference!) Gifting away (and very likely losing in combat) a couple of units also is a major step to take. Still, it would be more than worth it to burn down PAL's capital, even if Donovan never returned the units to us.

OK, time to get down to composing an official email. Here's my initial draft to send off to Donovan on this subject:

Greetings to our Banana breathren!

Quite a few interesting turns we've had of late. Congratulations again on your victory at Giza, which sets up the possibility of a much bigger strike against The Warning. We'd like to work together with you to pull off another "Mutal" move against PAL's capital. Here's what our team is thinking:

We are going to capture Acre next turn (T171). Imperio has run all of their defenders out of the city because they know they can't hold it, leaving it completely defenseless. Because of the Banana culture surrounding Acre, we would like to gift this city to you, providing another military and naval base in the fight against PAL. We trust that you won't object to this city gift!

From the tile east of Acre, galleons can reach The Warning in one turn along the arrowed path. (See our attached screenshot.) We would like to propose that you move your two galleons to that tile east of Acre, and carry out a surprise attack that razes The Warning to the ground. And since you have visibility into the city, we can both make sure that there are enough units on those ships to guarantee that the city burns. (We would be willing to "loan" you a unit or two for the attack by gifting them, so long as you returned them to us afterwards.) Best of all, because you destroyed Giza, PAL does not have visibility on that staging tile, and won't even be able to see the attack coming!

How does this plan sound to you? Where are your galleons right now, and how close are they to Acre? How many units can you spare to put on the ships for a naval attack like this? There *IS* a need for haste, because PAL is researching Astronomy as we speak, and will have it in 4 turns. We can probably hammer out some of these ideas in a chat session, just to make sure the attack goes off like a well-oiled machine. We're excited about this idea, and hope you'll join us in torching our enemy's capital!

Realms Beyond

Screenshot above to be included in the message, naturally. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome. We definitely want to make sure that we're all on the same page with this, but it seems to me that a chance to raze The Warning is one that we have to take. And I think we've got good odds to pull this off so long as we can coordinate our actions with Donovan.

We would end up changing some of the wording around, however the plan remained essentially the same. Through a variety of messages and chat sessions, we worked with trying to coordinate everything with Donovan, making sure that we would get the ships in position to strike with the maximum number of six units on board, gifting around units as necessary to sort everything out.

In the meantime, our team continued to carve apart the remnants of Imperio's empire in the west:

We captured Acre, razed the lousy filler city of Oxhuitza, and captured Calakmul. Realms Beyond armies, full of dozens of drafted Oromo Warriors along with older maces and newer cuirassiers, pushed towards the final cities of Uxmal, Lakamha, and Mayapan to deliver the finishing blows. For their part, Imperio had simply stopped playing their turns and was leaving their units in place unmoved. We requested a replacement player, or at the very least an AI to sub in for Imperio, yet PAL of all teams actually rejected this notion. It wouldn't have made a tremendous difference in any case; Imperio was doomed regardless, with no sources of metal and their best cities gone before the war even started. At best, they could have put up extra resistance and stretched out the war for a longer period of time. But they were going to lose regardless, as our armed forces were overwhelmingly strong against what Imperio had left.

We were having less success with Donovan, who was not making the tactical moves we suggested. For instance, he gifted us a galleon rather than filling it up with units to attack The Warning! I was tearing my hair out at a few moments, as it seemed that a golden opportunity had passed us by, and Banana was not going to get a chance to attack The Warning at all. And then, seemingly out of the blue, the miraculous invasion went through!!!


Checked CivStats (as I do waaaay too often, like every couple of hours) and saw the readout:

5:55pm Team Banana score increase to 1037
5:55pm PAL score decrease to 1328
5:55pm Team Banana score decrease to 999

And started fist pumping and whooping it up in my apartment! Good thing no one else is here tonight, or they'd all think I was crazy.
Break out the celebrations bigtime! I think we are now the frontrunners to win this thing.
Awwwwwwwwwwwwww Yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

As it turns out, PAL got unbearably sloppy in their tactical maneuvering. Even though they knew that Banana had galleons, and galleons relatively close to their capital, they left a single spearman on defense inside their capital. PAL had visibility on a Banana galleon, and they knew that that ship couldn't reach The Warning in one turn. However, what they didn't know was that there was a SECOND galleon hidden just out of sight, and that ship was the one that dealt the deadly blow. (PAL accused Donovan of an illegal double-move in the General Forum, but they were wrong. There were two ships in the Channel, not one.) Thus even though we screwed up our cooperation on this plan, it didn't matter because Donovan attacked with a mace and a crossbow, taking and razing the PAL capital!!!

It must have been quite a shock for PAL's players, to see their research center go down in flames just like that. To be honest, I don't think they ever quite took Banana seriously, considering the pitiful state in which Banana had been when Donovan assumed the reigns. He did an absolutely unbelievable job of resurrecting that civilization, to the point where it was Banana ships burning down PAL cities at the outset of this tense war. Far better than anything that the Templars, Rabbits, or Imperio had ever managed to pull off!

Nevertheless, PAL was damaged but hardly out of the game. PAL still had a significant tech lead (five techs: Printing Press, Chemistry, Steel, Economics, and Liberalism) over anyone else in the game. They also had a gigantic army which had not seen combat as yet; PAL's army was only slightly less powerful than our own Realms Beyond one, and once it moved into Banana territory cities were definitely going to fall. Donovan knew this, and yet he still attacked out anyway, since razing The Warning and Giza were his best chances of surviving longterm, even if he lost units in the short term. PAL's Heroic Epic city of Memphis was pumping out cuirassiers like no tomorrow, and it was not going to be easy trimming those forces down to size.

Anyway, Realms Beyond was now the easy favorite to win the Demogame, but the game had hardly reached a definitive conclusion. PAL's own fall from "shoo-in to win the game" status a mere two dozen turns earlier proved how unpredictable things could get. We at Realms Beyond continued racing ahead with our plans to finish off Imperio, so that we could then get some modern naval ships into the Channel and start taking the fight to PAL's home cities. If PAL could eliminate or cripple Banana before we could rush to their aid, the game might still be in the balance.