Apolyton Demogame: The End?

We were expecting the game to go on for quite a while yet. After all, none of the teams were close to achieving one of the in-game victory conditions. However, once The Warning had been razed, PAL stopped playing their turns and began posting "End of Game" messages in the General Forum:

Indiansmoke: [PAL]
Ok if it [the disputed Banana galleon] is not he one that was near Thebes then we were outplayed and it is game over pretty much.

Krill please check if what Bannana say is correct, if it is, well done Realms, congrats, see you in the next game.

I am not sure whether you are presenting your whole team, or whether this is just your opinion. We had different signals from your team before and we also got change of management in the case of Rabbits for example, when things looked grim for them. And they are still around.

There are still 5 teams in this game, so it is far from being over. So lets hear a team decision from PAL whether or not you throw in the towel and sign over to the AI or find a replacement player.


Indiansmoke: [PAL]
OK it seems you did not understand it the first 2 times I posted it.

so for the third and final time.......The game is over, well done Realms!

This was disappointing news, to say the least. I know I had been looking forward to a lategame showdown with PAL for many months, and PAL was simply giving up before that conflict even got started! PAL's members were arguing from the point of view that no team other than Realms Beyond had any chance to win the game, so there was no point in continuing further. This was what you would expect from a team made up primarily of Multiplayer guys: if a game goes badly, no big deal, just quit and start up another one. It was a very different mindset from our Realms Beyond community, which values challenging situations and overcoming difficulty. We try to stress never giving up, no matter how bleak the situation might look. That's a major reason why Realms Beyond had been successful in this game, despite some very difficult spots at times.

So while PAL was correct that it would have been "difficult" to come back and win the game, it would not have been impossible, and a number of us were pretty unhappy about their decision. I certainly was! After all, the other five teams had kept playing even when it looked like PAL was all but guaranteed to win. Did the Templars decide to quit when they were losing? Did the Rabbits quit after they lost any chance at victory? No, not one bit. Yet PAL was willing to throw in the towel - despite being the clear #2 power in the game - when they suffered their first major setback. Basically, PAL was only willing to continue the game so long as it looked like they were going to be the winners. I stated at the time that that was poor sportsmanship, and I stand by those comments.

Unfortunately, if PAL was unwilling to continue the game there really was very little we could do about it. A game with one of the giant world powers sitting around inert, with no one playing the turns, would have been little more than a mockery. A weird period of about two weeks followed PAL's statement of resignation, in which the Rabbits declared war and recaptured Eisenburg from the absent PAL team, and Banana walked a crossbow up to a PAL city defended by a warrior and captured it. Clearly, the Demogame had turned into a farce, and we mercifully killed it off before any more silliness could transpire.

Thus Realms Beyond was the official winner of the Demogame... but it felt like a hollow victory. PAL's decision to quit robbed our team of the chance for a true victory, and we'll never really know how things might have turned out. So... yay, I guess. A messed-up ending to a messed-up game. I supposed I should have expected that.

Some ending pictures from our team. Imperio getting eliminated on the final turn of the game:

Our city list a couple turns before the end. We actually added another three or four Imperio cities to this total, ending up with 25 total:

Ending Demographics. Our lead in Land Area, Production, and Food were pretty dominant:

Here are some ending comments from other players before I offer my own:

Aukland123: [PAL]
Before I give my take on the game I think credit should be given to Realms, they played well, with admirable sportsmanship at all times.

But as time progressed the game started becoming more and more of a joke.

Firstly the original Banana, why is gods name did they start playing when they couldn’t commit more then a couple of months … This left a big hole, as it immediately left a CIV without any real hope to win the game.

Also, not taking anything away from Templars, but role playing has no place in a competitive game. Trying to grab every religion and religious wonder, is not a strategy, it’s just plain suicide, and gives any conquering CIV a very quick war-payback.

Regarding Imperio, I know language was a real barrier with these guys, so I will try not to be too harsh. But like the original Banana, these guys shouldn’t have started; they swapped player mid-game, missed turns and would take weeks replying to messages, if at all. They really didn’t careless about the game which is fine, but not ideal for something that is meant to be ‘competitive’.

The new Banana; well part of the reason the original Imperio player stopped playing was due the overly-cosy relationship between RB and Banana. I don’t want to get into this issue here, but PAL did agree with these sentiments – Which we raised with Krill. That being said Donovan did well considering the circumstances, he knew he couldn’t win so his game plan was to disrupt PAL as much as possible. Again this is fine, but ideally you want more then 2 teams with a chance to win it.

Lastly Rabbit; I know we have had a lot of trouble with these guys in the past … And I still stand by what I said earlier, they seriously lack game knowledge. They built their 3rd city like 30+ tiles from their capital, this combined with having axmen at turn 140, says “stick to single player” to me.

The problem was after 50 turns or so, it became a 2 horse race with the other teams acting as support. I posted in the PAL forum many times, only PAL or RB can win this game, but it will be decided by the other teams. If Imperio put up more resistance, it would have been an easy win for PAL (minus the very silly moves we did to lose our city to banana) because eventually they would have had riflemen and cannons. Likewise if Rabbit put up a better fight earlier, Imperio would have won easily, there is no way we could have cleared 30 tiles of jungle and built GL [Great Lighthouse] while being in a “real war”.

I understand single player guys like diplomacy, but IMO MP should at the very least be played always war – With equal number of neighbours. Or you get the situation we had this game; I think we can all agree it was far from ideal!

Anyway nice win RB, I don’t want to take anything away from it!

A well-written summary, although naturally I don't agree with everything that they said! Donovan of Banana's comments:

Donovan Zoi:
Well, with PAL missing the last turn, I too shall start speaking about this game in the past tense. Besides, an opportunity for me to be AFK until Monday has arisen, and I am taking it.

That said, I would like to extend my congratulations to the Realms Beyond team for a job well done. I was really looking forward to the coming turns, but I have no interest in playing against a ghost.

I guess I should also apologize to all for my part in ending the game prematurely. Had I just agreed with everyone that this was a preordained 2-horse race, I could have just stayed in my corner while destiny was fulfilled. But where the hell is the fun in that?

Sorry, PAL, but the reason you and I could never be friends is not because I was involved in some vast conspiracy with the Realms Beyond team (whose members I have never spoken with until we met in-game). Just like in SP, a proven strategy is to find a civ you have no interest in conquering (yet) and befriend them. And while some have said that this partnership was taken to the extreme, my only regret was not putting more specific terms on our Iron deal (which I am sure much of the fuss was about). But this was only done because we knew we would need Horses at some point, and Realms delivered. Long story short, I don't think either team abused any MP code by being able to forge a mutually beneficial relationship.

The real reason we had to declare on you is (gasp!) because PAL occupied prime low-maintenance land that my predecessors apparently squandered away, and then used our long term NAP to run the table on tech/gold. And sorry, but as I said earlier, I would not have devoted 6+ months to a game if I wasn't going to make an attempt at victory. Your one-sided approach during our NAP gave you the inside track to victory but also left you somewhat vulnerable. I do commend you for the pre-war moves of (1) getting peace terms with Rabbits once Iron was secured and (2) getting Steel via Liberalism. Your one mistake was to not take our team seriously, and you paid dearly for it.

As for the other teams, Templars seemed a bit coy in their dealings with us, which we took to mean that they were mildly under PAL's influence. I think Templars may have been savvy enough to dissuade me from attacking PAL in the early game when our diplomacy flourished, but I cannot know that for sure. I do know that once war was avoided, we didn't hear much from Templars again. For the most part Imperio worked in their own interests as far as I could see, but seemed to have to check with PAL on every tech offer we made.

As for the Rabbits, I wish we could have had better diplomacy. I'll leave it at that.

In closing, good game to all. I am glad I was able to take part.

And our own darrelljs, who offers a nice Realms Beyond take not written by me:

Disclaimer: This is my opinion, not the RB opinion (I was pretty much a lurker).

Anyway, I guess a Demo game is not the same as standard MP, all the teams go into it with different approaches.

PAL - Being made up of MP players, they went at it very aggressive and with good results. They even did well with the diplomacy (I always though the Templars/Imperio gang up on RB was instigated by PAL, and certainly they did some cold war style support with techs). Unfortunatley for them (maybe a bit overconfident?) they lost their capital. The MP mindset seems to be "give up when behind so we can squeeze in more games", but I'll note at one point RB was basically friendless, fighting a two front war, and watching PAL tech like crazy. Things can change .

Templars - Well, I don't think there is anythign wrong with role playing. Honestly, I don't know if RB would have attacked them or not if they had not declared first. Once they did that it became a competitive situation, and they just hadn't put themselves in a strong enough position. Imperio basically sat on the sidelines; they tied down some RB forces but didn't really make any distracting moves.

Imperio - They actually played okay. They had a sick start, IMO the best in the game. You could say language was an issue but they did a pretty decent job trying to thread the diplomatic needle and play both RB and PAL for free techs (kind of like Kazakhstan has been doing with Russia and the U.S.). In the end I think they just got too greedy. They made RB sign a really onerous peace treaty. It was a good move for them but not sticking to the terms to the letter was probably a mistake. The sad thing was their current turn player was a really nice guy, but he had inherited a lot of bad blood.

I think Zoid did a great job summarizing Rabbits. Again, they didn't approach it ladder style.

Banana...I think Banana cozied up to RB because PAL was such an obvious threat. Here maybe the MP mindset hurt PAL, because I think if they had really attempted to court Banana early then RB would have been totally isolated. Like you said, diplomacy is a big part of a demo game and I think always war would just make it too much like a ladder game.


For my own comments, I'll address the teams in the order of their finish, starting with PAL:

PAL: This team unquestionably played the best game out of our five opponents. We were tracking PAL's growth throughout the whole game with our Cloak and Dagger department, and the numbers were extremely impressive thoroughout. Getting all those cities going early on via settler and worker whips was extremely well done. As an example of this, PAL had four cities at the same time that Templars had two, and later had seven cities to the inert Banana's two! When attacked by Rabbits, PAL managed to weasel a horses trade from Realms Beyond and whip out a monster army of chariots that killed any chance of Rabbits winning the game. The Great Lighthouse build was sheer brilliance, easily the best move than any team made in the whole game. PAL also made great use of their central location, getting contacts with all teams early on and negotiating many advantageous tech trades. PAL's attempt to wage a Cold War against Realms Beyond using Templars and Imperio as proxies was completely correct from a strategic perspective. PAL's problem was that these two teams simply weren't very good tacticians, and collapsed too quickly before PAL could crush all resistance on their own continent. I will say that we were convinced that PAL was going to win for about 90% of the length of this Demogame. I'm still rather surprised that they didn't!

As I see it, PAL made two real mistakes. The first was not finishing off the Rabbits around T100 when they had a mere 2 cities and surely would have been destroyed by a determined PAL campaign. I don't know exactly how or why that happened, however the survival of Rabbits dragged out that conflict for many more unproductive turns, and denied PAL a source of iron until extremely late in the game. The second mistake was underestimating what Donovan's Banana team could achieve, culminating in the disastrous tactical error that saw PAL lose their capital. Obviously that could have been done better... but hindsight is of course 20/20.

We were all very impressed by PAL's play in-game. Unfortunately, PAL's out-of-game actions were much less pleasant, with some nasty comments at times getting posted in the General Forum. PAL accused our team on multiple occasions of having recruited Donovan for the Demogame, as a secret ally to hand the game to Realms Beyond, none of which was true in the least. (None of us had ever met him before, and our own team forum will illustrate how we often disagreed with Banana.) I hope that if PAL participates in one of these games again, they can try to be a little bit more polite in their public posts. (I would recommend not letting tonyciv be the public face of the team!)

Banana: Commentary on Team Banana can essentially be divided into the "original" Banana team and the Donovan takeover. The original team was utterly incompetent even before they abandoned the game, not expanding at all and sitting around wasting time for no real reason. Two cities in 80 turns is utterly pathetic. Donovan's resurrection of the Banana civ was nothing less than miraculous, doubly so because he did it all entirely by himself. I have some unkind comments in our team forum when I accused Donovan of being an idiot for accepting the long Non-Aggression Pact with PAL. But this was my mistake - I had no idea just how weak Banana really was when they signed the deal. Donovan needed that time to have any chance of playing a role later on, which is indeed exactly what happened.

PAL has accused Banana of being a Realms Beyond puppet, which seems unfairly harsh to me. Can't two teams work together to their mutual advantage? Yes, Realms Beyond benefitted enormously from trading with Banana. But so did Banana from trading with Realms Beyond! We sent just as many beakers back the opposite way, along with resources (both happiness ones and horses for knights/cuirassiers). This was not like when PAL gifted a bunch of techs to a crippled Templar teams - both Realms Beyond and Banana were pulling equal weight on the tech front. Without the partnership with Realms Beyond, Banana would have likely been eliminated and been one of the last place teams. With our assistance, Donovan took Banana to a third-place finish, which could have been second place if the game had continued on longer. Certainly a lot better than being run over by PAL, which is the fate we all expected for Banana!

Rabbits: Well, this is the team we had the least contact with in this game. The Rabbits actually had some strong players, and much of the core of this team was from Alpha Centauri, the team that won the first Civ4 Apolyton Demogame. Everything just seemed to go disastrously wrong in this game, culminating in the ill-fated attack on PAL. With the opening of the Rabbits forums, we were able to look at what happened in the early turns, and I came up with this list of some of the mistakes made by the Rabbits:

* Deliberately not settling their capital in a location with 5 resources, giving up a wheat and whales resource for no reason whatsoever.
* Researching Masonry before Animal Husbandry, despite having a plains cow at the start.
* Researching The Wheel before Animal Husbandry, despite having a plains cow at the start.
* Building a settler at size 2, instead of growing to size 3 and then working another plains hill (with Imperialistic bonus).
* Building a stone quarry over a cattle pasture with the initial worker.
* Repeatedly wasting time working a 2/0/2 lake tile at the capital when there were much better options available (commerce is vastly less important than food and production in the early game).
* Moving the starting worker out into the fog, and then having it killed by a wolf!!!
* Founding city #2 in a position where pigs were outside the starting borders, and then slow-building a monument to get the pigs inside those borders.
* Not getting the cattle tile at the start pastured until T48, despite starting with Hunting tech.
* Playing the game as though it were Civ3 and there was no overflow of research, production, etc. Constant swapping of tiles for micro benefit ("growth in 2t either way!") instead of simply working the best tiles regardless and getting the max overflow. Especially egregious case of running 10% espionage slider "since we could finish our research in 1t either way."
* Building the Great Wall!!! (A terrible waste of production for virtually no payback at all. Just because one can build a wonder, doesn't mean one should.)
* Continuing to run 10% on the Espionage slider just to see PAL's research.
* Moving to settle directly into the teeth of PAL, ignoring good city locations near the capital, with no road network, a mere two workers, and an army consisting of three warriors.
* This sentence from GeoModder: "Main reason is that growing Caerbannog without a garrison in it will cause [unhappiness], so there's no point in letting the city grow."
* Misreading PAL's min science research ("400 turns to Alphabet") and not understanding that this was a binary science tactic. ("What do ya know, PAL is seriously researching Alphabet now. 10 turns before it finishes.")
* Not having Agriculture researched 70+ turns into the game!!! (Thus being unable to improve rice at new city.)
* Swapping back and forth between Iron Working, Monarchy, and Pottery, finishing reasearch on none of these techs while still lacking critical basic worker ones.
* Sitting in dead last in GNP the entire game and never doing anything to improve the research rate. 14 beakers/turn 80 turns into the game... (This would have spelled doom even if an attack on PAL had succeeded.)
* Capital sitting with an unhappy citizen at size 5 for lack of garrison, when a warrior could be built in 2t.
* Double-whipping a chariot in the capital (at the swapping penalty!) when the unit could be built in 3t naturally and there was no military need for the unit.
* Making it exceedingly obvious that an attack was coming against PAL... Honestly, walking a bunch of axes around the borders of PAL's cities tipped them off in plenty of time to counter. Fighting humans is nothing like fighting AIs; you either need surprise or a massive edge in units to prevail. Neither was the case here, and with PAL's edge in number of cities, a war of attrition was impossible to win. Military tactics were not good.
* Thinking that four axes and two chariots would be enough to damage or cripple PAL (clearly not understanding just how many units can be built in a hurry by using the whip aggressively). I think we all saw the result of that.

Now the one thing that reflects best on the Rabbits was their determination not to give up, and willingness to stick it out and continue playing out a nearly-hopeless situation. Many other teams in this game (Imperio, PAL, original Banana) quit when the going got difficult. Not the Rabbits! They kept on trudging along, somehow holding out against PAL and even rebuilding additional cities in the northern tundra. The determined resistance by the Rabbits was one of the main reasons why PAL did not win the game. And fortunately the Rabbits were rewarded for their effort, by securing a seemingly-impossible fourth place finish by outlasting some of their opponents. This team needs to keep up that kind of heart and effort, but maybe brush up a little on the actual Civ4 tactics. Well done Rabbits!

Imperio: This team did very well for itself during most of the game, leveraging their incredible starting position into a dominant role throughout most of the Demogame. They secured a decent amount of land, almost all of which was very high quality, along with Stonehenge, the Oracle, and a widely-spread religion (with Shrine). To me, the word that summed up Imperio's play in this game was "solid." They didn't do anything particularly spectacular or particularly bad, just... solid play. And despite the language barrier, Imperio seemed to do fairly well at diplomacy, although that may be due to the fact that they were usually negotiating from a position of advantage, with their ridiculous quadruple gold resources.

Imperio's real downfall was their complete refusal to take sides, and willingness to betray their "allies" when it became convenient. First they were allied with Templars, then Realms Beyond, then PAL, and so on, one partner to the next as soon as the former one ceased to be useful. The result was that no one trusted Imperio one iota, and they managed to piss off literally everyone else before the game came to a close. (OK, maybe not the Rabbits!) There's always some give and take between teams, but Imperio took it to extremes. Their team would have done much better to simply pick one ally, and stick with them. For example, we had offered Imperio to join with us in partitioning the Templars long before they declared war on us. If we had split the Templar territory earlier, Imperio would have emerged as a much stronger power, and the two of us might have challenged PAL together. Or alternately, Imperio could have partnered with PAL, the two top researchers pairing together to race ahead and screw over all the other teams. An Imperio/PAL exclusive alliance might have served them both very well indeed. Even sticking with the Templars would have at least made it far more difficult for Realms Beyond to conquer the western continent. The worst possible play was the one Imperio actually adopted, leaping around and trying to be friends to everyone else at once.

Imperio's single-minded focus on Cape Town was another mistake, costing their team the chance to work with Realms Beyond and forcing them into a long military buildup that ultimately achieved nothing. Imperio wasted a good twenty turns building military (sitting in Vassalage civic and thus not getting the benefit of Bureaucracy when it really would have helped them) and delaying Libraries for a really long time. Nor did Imperio try to set up an Academy in their capital, despite the many gold resource and floodplains cottages! Their research rate really could have, should have, been even better than it was. The lategame Realms Beyond backstab was, of course, the crippling move that resulted in Imperio's destruction. After being so dominant for so long, Imperio's dramatic collapse in the span of a dozen turns was a marvel to behold.

Templars: Well, I've probably said just about everything there is to say about the Templars. They played a terrible game from start to finish, their diplomacy was totally crazy, and their team finished in dead last place, first to be eliminated. Then after the game ended, they childishly refused to open their forums like the other teams, for no reason other than to spite the other players. So as a final nose-thumbing at the Templars, here's a gigantic laughing smiley face to commemorate their pathetic performance:

Final Standings

1) Realms Beyond
2) PAL
3) Banana
4) Rabbits
5) Imperio
6) Templars

Last comments... This game was a mixture of great fun and unbelievable irritation. The best parts were the team discussions, working together with some extremely smart and talented people to pull off one daring/crazy plan after another. The fact that Realms Beyond was not the dominant team until the very last turns of the game was part of what made it so entertaining, as we constantly had to dig our way out of the hole caused by the map conditions. I know I spent many an hour mulling over one tactic versus another - the time spent thinking about the game was definitely one of my favorite things. I was overseas for about half of the time that this Demogame took place, and it was a welcome link back to home for an hour or two each day. I won't ever forget walking through the rainy streets of a cold London spring thinking about how best to defend against Templar pillagers, or trying to type a Demogame post on a keyboard in a Swedish hostel that lacked an apostrophe key!

It was all the more amazing that the game proved so entertaining given the many, many, MANY problems that plagued the whole experience. In a nutshell, the Demogame was poorly designed, poorly organized, and poorly administered. I've already detailed the horrendous startup phase and the crazily unbalanced map conditions, but the issues went much further than that. When disputes arose between teams (as they inevitably will in this sort of game), we quickly found that there was no neutral administrator in charge. Krill had to step into that role, which was unfair to him and not something that he had signed up for. Teams simply quit from the game at various points in time, causing all manner of issues, and other teams (cough cough Imperio cough) often failed to play their turns, or refused to hit the "Enter" key when done, causing us to wait out the full timer length for no reason. The game's hosting crashed over and over again, often with long delays before it was restored. (It got so bad that Realms Beyond had to host the game ourselves by the end.) And we had to deal with the Apolyton forums, which were unreliable in the best of times, and the Apolyton community, which frankly is a rather unpleasant group riven with lots of old factional disputes.

Still, we had a lot of fun in the end. But neither myself nor Realms Beyond as a team has any desire to return for a repeat performace. If we do something like this again, we'll do it over at CivFanatics, which has a much better forum setup and overall community. (There's a reason why Apolyton is slowly dying while CivFanatics is more popular than ever.) This was kind of a one-time deal, I think.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and now you have an idea of the sort of thing that occupied so much of my free time over an 18-month span. The forums for the game can be accessed here.

- Sullla