Watch this game on YouTube (Playlist Link)
This is a quick writeup for my Honest Abe's Emancipation Adventure game featuring the Emancipation civic that took place on Livestream in the early months of 2023. One request that I'd often had from viewers was to try a game that outlawed Slavery civic since use of the whip is fundamental for high-level Civ4 gameplay. I thought about how to put together a variant which would have some kind of thematic unity and decided that I would run a setup where the player was required to adopt Emancipation civic on the first turn of the game and could never swap to anything else afterwards. This would prohibit Slavery civic along with the other options in the Labor column (Serfdom and Caste System) while removing the chance to do any temporary Golden Age swaps. I actually tested out a couple of different ways to implement this restriction, including making text edits to Worldbuilder save files, before discovering that adding Democracy tech on the very first turn of the game was the best option. My civ was forced into an Emancipation revolt on the first turn and we would be in the new civic for the rest of the game afterwards.
The obvious leader choice for the game was Abraham Lincoln, for thematic reasons and not gameplay ones. Lincoln's specialist-oriented Philosophical trait had poor synergy with the cottage-heavy Emancipation civic and I felt that I didn't get much value from this trait throughout the game. Playing America with its laughably late unique unit and unique building also meant that I was essentially running a blank civ for the first hundred turns of the game which worked out just fine since this was already a pretty silly concept. As a reminder, Emancipation civic grants double speed cottage growth along with additional unhappiness for other civs not running the civic. The double speed cottage growth means that cottages turn into hamlets in 5 turns, into villages in 15 turns, and into full towns in a mere 35 turns. It's an extremely powerful civic albeit coming at a major cost by ruling out Slavery civic's food into production conversion. I was essentially trading early game power for insane economic potential in the long run.
I picked a Small Hemispheres map with two continents which was designed to create a pair of landmasses with three total civs on each one. I kept the difficulty on Emperor to make for a decent challenge without being truly nailbiting and hoped that I'd be able to run a mostly peaceful game; trying to fight off aggressive AI leaders in the early game without Slavery civic wasn't something that I was eager to attempt. The starting position was pretty interesting as it had triple floodplains, triple ivory resources, a plains cattle, and a plains hill to settle on for the bonus +1 production. However, it also orphaned a rice tile and a pigs tile which were both just barely out of reach to the southwest and southeast respectively. I considered moving a tile south to pull them into range but that would give up two ivory and the cows, plus forfeit the opportunity to start on the plains hill. In the end, I stuck with the starting tile and established MURICA there, opening with a worker build and Hunting into Animal Husbandry research.
Exploration of the immediate starting area revealed that this was a fertile part of the map, with a jungle belt a bit further to the south and lots of grasslands and river tiles before the tundra started to appear to the north of the capital. I also discovered right away that the two neighboring AI leaders were Qin Shi Huang of China and Isabella of Spain, a pretty friendly draw overall as neither of them are unusually militaristic. If I could find a way to share religions with Isabella, she could even turn into a strong ally. Speaking of religion, I was ignoring the early faiths as usual and was deeply surprised when Isabella completely whiffed on all three of them! The other continent snapped up all of them leaving our continent completely in the dark. I'd have the potential to research one of the later religions and then spread it around on this landmass unopposed, hopefully making some friends in the process.
Now in a normal game, I would have focused on expanding to the high-food pigs and rice tiles to the south as a means of accelerating the overall growth curve of my civ. Instead, I decided that it would be more entertaining for this Livestream game to expand to the eastern "X" tile in the desert and use the stone resource there to construct Stonehenge. This is probably the best early game wonder for a Charismatic leader as it effectively provides +2 happiness in all cities while also serving as a mini-Creative trait, plus Lincoln's Philosophical trait would produce a Great Prophet 25 turns later who might be usable for an early shrine. Thus I delayed settling those superior locations to the south to establish Under Pressure in the east, then sunk more worker turns into connecting the stone and chopping for Stonehenge. Qin stuffed his own city of Shanghai only three tiles away from Under Pressure but surely that wouldn't matter once Stonehenge's massive culture was mine, right? The wonder finished as planned on Turn 51:
Note the tradeoff cost of this cute little move, however: only two cities 50 turns into the game. There's usually a great deal of freedom to take your civilization in many different directions during a game of Civ4 but everything always has an opportunity cost; you can normally do ANYTHING that you want but you can't do EVERYTHING that you want. The following turns were occupied with pushing out settlers and workers as fast as possible to claim the juicy grassland tiles that I'd been ignoring previously. I also had to content with barbarian archers coming down out of the northern wastelands with no copper or horse resources connected yet, forcing a quick detour to Archery tech for safety. No Slavery civic for emergency whips made this a bit more nerve-wracking than normal until I could get the horses connected and some chariots out. Qin even built the Great Wall (in Shanghai of all places, argh!) which was funneling the barbarians from the east into my borders and causing additional headaches. With that said, the extra happiness from Charismatic trait + Stonehenge monuments + lack of whipping unhappiness did mean that my American cities could grow upwards higher than usual for this stage of the game. I just had to get them there without being run over by barbarians and make sure that they had lots of Emancipation cottages to work as they developed!
Over the following turns, the AI civs did their best to remind me that I wasn't playing a pure sandbox game and they had their own agency as well. It started with Qin building the Oracle in Shanghai (of all cities!) to give him double wonders right on the border of Under Pressure. I had been planning on taking away the local pigs resource from the Chinese city and maybe even flipping it thans to the early Stonehenge build but that was never going to happen now that Shanghai had double wonders of its own. Then my Code of Laws research that I'd been pushing with the intention of founding the fourth religion of the game fell two turns short to one of the AIs out in the fog:
Choose Religions option was turned on which is why Taoism was taken at the Code Laws tech. The Great Prophet from Stonehenge was sitting there ready to found an immediate shrine and I was left with no religion to use it on. Those stupid barbarians probably cost me the two turns difference where I came up short, argh. The new religion had also gone to Qin, worse luck. I would end up using my Great Prophet to lightbulb Theology tech and found Christianity, slowly beginning the process of spreading it to everyone on this continent. And then the Pyramids were built on Turn 92 by Spain half a dozen turns before I could complete the thing. I hadn't exactly been rushing the thing given that it was nearly Turn 100 by this point but it still hurt to miss out on the wonder. I could have whipped the Pyramids to completion if Slavery civic had been allowed, it was that close to finishing. Instead I'd have to make due with a healthy amount of stone-enhanced failgold to push research.
The next few hours of gameplay didn't have anything particularly dynamic take place. I was able to sit back and relax with a peaceful builder game, helped along by having two mostly peaceful AI neighbors who were more interested in developing their own territory than slamming axes and chariots into my lands. I used the initial free missionary from Theology tech to convert Isabella to Christianity and she did most of the rest of the work of spreading the religion to her own cities. This was enough to get her up to Pleased relations where she was very unlikely to declare war thanks to shared faith bonuses. I was less certain about Qin who started going absolutely nuts on the wonder-building despite having only six cities to his name. I was prepared to defend myself if he attacked over our separate religions and heavy border tension but the Chinese never initiated hostilities. I was resolved to leave him alone as long as he left me alone even though poor Under Pressure steadily lost more and more tiles to the mammoth culture of Shanghai.
Mostly though I built and built and built. We had an old meme in the Realms Beyond Epics about running "The Eternal Infrastructure Christmas" for a civ that did nothing but build pure infrastructure while neglecting military, and that was certainly the case here for long stretches of time. I was helped by having several strong cities on hand with food bonuses and abundant grassland tiles: MURICA, Hammy Hills, Cowpaddy, and Tombstone were all excellent contributors that kept the economic engine of America running at high speed. Rodeo Country was an even better city and would develop to become one of the strongest I can recall in recent memory once it was fully cottaged and trained up to speed. Playing the game without Slavery civic meant that many of these cities were slower to get their infrastructure built than normal and I tried to slip in additional mines on hills to have some production on hand. The Charismatic + Stonehenge combo was extremely helpful at ballooning the happy cap and letting these cities grow to larger sizes than my AI competitors. I suspect that I would have needed to balance development against military safety much more carefully if I'd been confronted with more dangerous neighbors. Since everyone else was peaceful though, I largely was able to stay on the pure development path without needing to worry.
I ended up with ten cities in my main core, the eight pictured above and then two more cities of lesser quality established in the northern tundra which largely served as fishing villages. There was another route for expansion, however, as it turned out that the continent had a narrow peninsula that snaked off in the southeast and ran all the way down to the South Pole. It had been covered with barbarians for the first 100 turns and that kept everyone from exploring the region, effectively preserving this area as a frontier region for later development. We named this the Peninsula of Power in a reference to the infamous bugged encounter zone from the first Final Fantasy game; I would squeeze out four additional cities down there starting with Panamania and then even added a fifth city at a truly pathetic icebound spot that could claim a single fish resource to feed itself. These were longterm projects for the moment and cost a pretty penny in maintenance costs but it was certainly better to have 15 cities and be double the size of the AI civs than it was to be stuck on 10 cities.
My American civ discovered Optics tech right around Turn 170 and I sent several caravels out into the water to contact the other continent for the first time. The other half of the world was only about five or six tiles away once the ocean could be crossed and it turned out that this was where all of the other religions had been hiding. Wang Kon was the closest AI just a short distance to the west along with Mansa Musa to his south and then Hannibal further away at the other end of the continent. There had been several wars over there as well in contrast to the peaceful lovefest that we'd been enjoying on my continent; I always appreciate how the AIs in Civ3 and Civ4 are willing to fight one another and conquer territory instead of sitting around as inert blobs. Anyway, it became clear pretty quickly that Wang Kon and Mansa Musa were doing quite well in terms of research. Not only were they keeping pace with my American civ, they were both slightly ahead of me on the tech tree! I was going to have real competition for the early Renassiance prizes on the tech tree, the Liberalism free tech and the nearby key wonders.
A Great Merchant out of Rodeo Country on Turn 198 was sufficient to trigger my first Golden Age of the game, with the intention of using it to flip into my endgame civics before the eight turn duration ran out. Earlier the Livestream chat had spotted Isabella researching Divine Right in a bid to establish the final religion of the game. I wanted to keep her locked in my Christianity and thus had burned a Great Prophet to finish Divine Right first, then buried the resulting religion. This had the intended effect of keeping Izzy in the Christian fold but it cost me an earlier Golden Age opportunity and gave up any chance of reaching Nationalism tech in time to build the Taj Mahal. I would also lose the Economics Great Merchant and later the Physics Great Scientist to AI civs who always beeline those particular prizes on the tech tree. However, my Golden Age was enough to secure Liberalism (largely since Mansa Musa ignored it) which I was able to cash in on the expensive Astronomy tech. There was just enough time to adopt Free Speech and Free Market on the final Golden Age turn to result in tile yields like this:
Now that view was cheating a bit since I was still in a Golden Age here but I gotta say... niiiiiice. Running Emancipation civic since Turn 0 had resulted in a core that was disgustingly full of mature towns as far as the eye could see. The 2 additional commerce on every town from Free Speech was enormously valuable under these circumstances and I was also reaping massive overseas trade route income via Free Market thanks to having Open Borders with every leader in the game. Now I needed to reach Democracy tech so that I could finally adopt Universal Suffrage civic - I had not allowed myself to use the civic up to this point since it had been Worldbuildered in from the start. Add in future levees for all of the riverside tiles and even cottage-heavy cities like Rodeo Country were in position to be massive industrial powerhouses in the next era.
I had made sure to pick up Rifling and Military Tradition techs to be on the safe side, not wanting to pull a Willem from AI Survivor and throw away a strong start needlessly. I had earlier ignored the top part of the tech tree in the Classical era due to lacking marble, and only now belatedly went back to grab Literature for the National and Heroic Epics which went in the capital and Tombstone respectively. My Heroic Epic city sat around building cavalry for some time just in case Qin would attack me although that seemed less and less likely as the game continued to progress. I was then presented with an unexpected opportunity in the early Industrial era when Hannibal declared war on Wang Kon and sent a diplomatic request asking me to join in. I initially refused the offer before thinking on it some more and realizing that this was a great chance for my civ. Wang Kon was militarily backwards with nothing better than medieval units and Hannibal was already taking cities off of him. I had the chance to grab some more territory for myself at minimal cost and hopefully make a stronger friend out of Hannibal in the process. In the end, I reloaded back to the beginning of the turn and took the Carthaginian leader up on his offer: death to Korea, apparently!
There wasn't much to say about the war with Wang Kon, it was rifles and cavs against medieval trash and anyone reading this report likely knows by now how that always goes. I was fighting this war on the cheap with only two galleons to ferry units back and forth and two frigates to strip away coastal defenses from Korea's seaside cities. I wasn't even training replacement units since my cities at home were all busy working on their factories and coal plants with Assembly Line tech just having arrived. I had enough to get the job done though thanks to the immense power of cavalry. They rip through anything from the earlier eras even when forced to charge directly into city defenses in a way that's always remarkable to watch. I did have good luck in this conflict as well, winning lots and lots of battles in the 70-80% range where I really should have taken more casualties. It all worked out though and Korea disappeared from the map in about a dozen turns to be swallowed up by the American imperium.
Amongst the remaining AI leaders, Isabella had reached Friendly status where I would never be attacked and Hannibal was up to Pleased relations. (He also lacked Optics tech so he couldn't have invaded my home continent even if he wanted to.) Qin continued to build wonders at a frenetic pace but had fallen a good distance behind in tech and no longer posed much of a threat; if he looked like he was going to approach a Cultural victory, I could always invade and snipe off one of his three Legendary cities before it reached 50k culture. No, the real headache was now coming in the form of Mansa Musa who stubbornly remained ahead of me in technology despite having a mere 9 cities to the 20+ fielded by America. Mansa Moneybags was up three or four optional techs that I could safely skip and kept maintaining a lead of another two or three techs amongst the ones that I actually did need to research. Thankfully he kept chasing after optional stuff like Communism and Fascism and Mass Media, however I still wasn't sure that I could beat him to the spaceship even with those detours. He snapped up Cristo Redentor and the lategame happiness resource-producing wonders which I had wanted for myself - argh!
The one big advantage that I had working in my favor as the game began to approach its conclusion came in the form of corporations. I wound up with a ton of Great Engineers in this game and burned one of them to establish Mining Inc in my Christian shrine + Wall Street city of Cowpaddy. Corporations were one of the additions to the gameplay from Beyond the Sword and I rarely make much use of them in my games, partly because they arrive so late on the tech tree and partly because they're micro-intensive to use. Oftentimes I simply flip into State Propety civic (which invalidates corporations) and rely on watermills and workshops instead of fiddling around with the corporate executives. But if there was ever a game where the corporations were going to be useful and thematically appropriate, it was when playing America and running Free Market civic which discounts the cost of corporations by 25%. I was pulling in tons of international commerce from trade routes, I had the spare Great Person, and there wasn't much need for mass workshops given that all my flatground tiles already had cottages on them. It was a perfect game to experiment with corporate greed.
Corporations provide benefits to cities based on how many resources your civ controls; for example, Mining Inc converts coal, copper, iron, gold, and silver into additional production for each city. The exact conversion rate varies by map size and here on a Small map I was getting 18 production/turn in exchange for higher maintenance costs. Those costs could be mostly defrayed by putting the corporate headquarters in my Wall Street city; it was still a net less in gold to spread Mining Inc to a new city but not as bad as that -10 gold/turn number suggests. In return, my cities were each gaining 18 production/turn - BASE production/turn, mind you, which would then be fed through the forge, factory, coal plant, etc. production modifiers that might be present. This turned the pictured northern fishing villages into good cities and my good cities into exceptionally strong cities. In fact, with their factories and power plants in place to compound that production, all of my cities rapidly constructed every type of infrastructure possible and then went onto Wealth or Research builds since I was out of other options. Wealth and Research do not benefit from gold/production modifiers like banks and libraries but they do benefit from production modifiers and thus even my former fishing villages with Mining Inc present could easily add 80-100 gold/turn apiece in additional income from Wealth builds. I could have easily run over the whole planet with military units but instead followed the path of peaceful dominance by converting that production into pure economy.
I'm on record as disliking corporations because they tend to make every city homogenous by granting food or production out of thin air. It's never a good thing from a gameplay perspective to pull cities away from their actual tile yields and divorce them from the map itself. Nevertheless, the corporations were REALLY strong as they soon allowed me to run 100% research at all times once I started converting cities over to Wealth builds. Mansa Musa kept pace for a long time but even his mighty economy fell by the wayside eventually. A late Great Merchant allowed me to found Sid's Sushi corporation as well which I started spreading in tandem for additional food and culture. It took some time to set everything up, between getting the Korean conquests out of rebellion and replacing their infrastructure along with spreading double corporations to all of my cities one executive at a time. There was one Livestream session where I basically did nothing but move missionaries and corporate executives around the map for 90 minutes - hopefully that was a relaxing session to watch. (ASMR Civ4 anyone? ) Once everything was set up though, the game just... ended. 1800 beakers/turn while running positive income at 100% science already sounded impressive but things would get much worse for my AI competitors from there.
They were especially worse for Qin as I finally decided to put him out of his misery at the start of the Modern era. Qin had been spying on me constantly, poisoning the water supply at Under Pressure over and over again along with pillaging random tile improvements, and he bugged me enough that I let loose with tanks and bombers on Turn 286. The Chinese had been begging to be taken over for practically the whole game (Qin was still defending his cities with longbows while I had infantry and tanks) and the powergaming move would have been to crush him with elephants and catapults way back in the Classical era to steal his wonders for myself. I honestly would have left him alone if he hadn't done so much spying nonsense, plus it was a nice little opportunity to show off the crushing advantage of having air power when the other side lacks it. You're really a sitting duck in Civ4 when the other side has uncontested bombers roaming the skies (much like in real life) and American planes surgically removed the city defenses of one Chinese city after another. The Charismatic trait allowed tanks coming out of my Heroic Epic city to start with City Raider III promotion and so everything was a massively one-sided slaughter. China was gone from the map in eight turns:
The remaining turns were little more than a countdown until America's desired victory condition arrived. Spaceship seemed to be the most likely ending and there was no longer any drama there as Mansa Musa had dropped out of the tech race in favor of pushing for a Cultural victory. That had been a poor choice on his part as his third would-be Legendary city, Djenne, was limping along at 250 culture/turn while still needing another 40,000 culture to hit the finish line. Although I'm pretty sure that my economy would have outpaced Mansa's research regardless of what he did, he would have at least had some kind of chance in racing me to space. He clearly had no shot whatsoever with this poorly-conceived Cultural attempt. Most of the captured Chinese wonders were obsolete by now but the Mausoleum had been among the looted prizes and that induced me to launch a late double Golden Age for 24 turns of enhanced research and production. As the Chinese cities started coming out of resistance and added Mining/Sushi corporate benefits, my overall science total climbed to 3500 beakers/turn, then 4000 beakers/turn, then 4500 beakers/turn. I was knocking out the uber-expensive lategame techs every 2-3 turns while building the associated Spaceship parts in my best cities. Rodeo Country in particular was absolutely disgusting with its Golden Age + Uni Suffrage + levee towns along with full factory and power plant and Ironworks infrastructure. It was easily my best city ever that lacked a food resource tile of any kind.
Even as I waited for the inevitable spaceship victory, there was another potential ending in the form of the United Nations. Mansa Musa had built the wonder which ensured that he would always be nominated as one of the potential candidates. I had Friendly relations with Isabella thanks to our gamelong shared faith to lock down her vote, and with former Korea and former China absorbed into the American imperium, plus Sid's Sushi to grow extra population everywhere, it looked like there were more than enough votes to put me over the top. I won the Secretary General election and called for the Diplomatic victory vote which landed on Turn 303 to bring this game to a conclusion:
I could not have won the game here without Isabella's votes - thank goodness I prevented her from ever founding her own religion and flipping out of Christianity! The spaceship win was in the bag and simply would have required clicking through another dozen or so turns to finish researching the needed techs followed by ten turns for the spaceship to travel to Alpha Centauri. I was more than happy to skip that and take the rarer Diplomatic ending route. About the only regret that I have from this game was failing to convert every city in the world to Christianity. I had spread the faith to every city on earth except three Hannibal cities; he had gone to war with Isabella and I'd been forced to cancel deals with Carthage to keep Isabella happy which locked out my missionaries from the final remaining cities. Outside of that it was basically a perfect economic ending to the game; Cowpaddy was making more than 800 gold/turn at 0% income thanks to shrine + corporate income. If you ever wanted to see a game showcasing the power of cottages, trade routes, and corporations, this was the one to watch.
I hope this was a nice and relaxing game overall. Thanks as always for watching and reading along!