Realms Beyond Pitboss #2: The World at War

With tensions rising around the globe, we pick up the action again with a State of the Empire type post from Turn 150:


Check out this info from CivStats. CivStats is the website that tracks user logins to Pitboss games and score changes; I left the URL in the picture in case you want to go take a look. CivStats is how we know when the new turn is ready, when other teams are logged into the game, and so on. With some practice, you can read what's going on without even logging in, based on the score changes that CivStats displays.

At the very end of the previous turn (T149), slaze logged in and did a massive whipping fest. He whipped 10 cities for 19 population - holy cow! Our best guess is that he whipped a longbow in almost every city, having just discovered Feudalism and revolted to Vassalage civic. That's some impressive stuff, go slaze! And hurt your economy in the process, hehe.

Now for our own civ:

Hampton Roads completed the Colossus, a nice little present for the big 150. Kinda funny that this was almost an afterthought for our team, heh. Because we are Financial, the largest benefit comes not from coastal tiles, but from the ocean tiles that go from 2/0/1 tiles to 2/0/3 tiles. With Moai and Colossus, Hampton Roads is now a monster city! Sure am glad I convinced Speaker to go for this spot, and not the safer city he wanted. Course, maybe if we had gone with his plan, we wouldn't have had to survive that awful attack earlier...

We also completed research on Civil Service tech, and plan to revolt to Bureaucracy later this turn. Before doing so, I took a couple of comparison screenies. The picture above shows the research we'll actually run when we come out of Anarchy, just enough to complete Meditation tech (20%) while piling up more cash surplus.

Here's the southern half of our civ, running 50% science (break-even):

187 beakers/turn at the flat even rate (-2gpt). No idea how that stacks up to the other teams, but my guess would be pretty favorable. Nakor, Kathlete, and maybe slaze are the only other teams that are really competitive with us on research at this point.

The northern half of our civ at 100% science:

375 beakers/turn at a large deficit of -173gpt. We probably have the highest costs and highest max research rate of any team (or very close to it). At this rate, we are just shy of being able to research Feudalism in 2 turns.

Here's the F1 city list at 0% science:

170gpt at 0% science. We are very nicely balanced now, with max science and max gold almost exactly canceling each other out. Looks like we have the economy to afford more cities at this point. That means one of two things: concentrate on settling the offshore island, or destroy Jowy and take his cities. We're hoping for the latter plan, which will put us in really good position... if it succeeds...

Finally the Demographics, taken at 50% break-even science for comparitive purposes:

There's not much to compain about, as we are #1, #2, or #3 in every category that matters. The low numbers in Approval Rate and Life Expectency are a good thing; that means that are cities are pushing up against the happy and health caps. (You want to be there, it means you have lots of big cities!) GNP is hard to read, as both Kathlete and Nakor are running 100% science this turn and buffing their GNP stat. There have been turns recently where we were the only ones over 200 in that stat, for what it's worth. Think we're still doing pretty well there...

The Turn 150 numbers reflected our strong position in the game. We were in first place or very close to first in every meaningful category, and our economy had rebounded to the point where we could afford more cities. The Colossus was almost built by accident; I noticed that we could do it in about six turns by making use of some whip overflow, and Speaker agreed to pause from building triremes at Hampton Roads long enough to sneak it in. While it didn't make a huge difference, and we had few coastal cities, every little bit helps. In terms of technology, we had just discovered Civil Service and were getting ready to lightbulb Machinery, and from there it would be on to Guilds (knights) and Engineering (road movement/pikes).

Internationally, the crazy whipping binge carried out by slaze of Inca was the biggest headline. He had just discovered Feudalism and revolted to Vassalage; massive usage of Slavery for double-promoted longbows was clearly how slaze expected to survive the pending attack from Kathlete (Ottomans) and Whosit (Rome).

Our friendly relations with Korea had matured enough that when they discovered Alphabet tech before anyone else in the game (this being a rather weak technology in a No Trading game), we were able to ask them for a list of what techs everyone else had, which plako was happy to provide. Here's what they emailed back to us:

Korea to Killer Angels:
I hastly collected the techs and hopefully I didn't miss many, but here they are:

Athlete - Can't trade: Meditation, HBR, IW, Calendar, Monotheism Can research: Monarchy, Theo, CS, Aesthe, alpha, Philo, Compass, machinery
Jowy - Can't trade: Meditation, IW Can research: Poly, Monarchy, CS, Aesthe, Alpha, Calendar, curency. philo, HBR, MC, Compass
Nakor -Can't trade: Medi, Mono, IW Can research: Theo, Aesthe, Alpha, calendar, Philo, paper, HBR, compass, Machinery
slaze -Can't trade: Mono Can research: Medi, Theo, CS, Aesthe, Alpha, Calendar, Currency, HBR, IW, MC, Construction
Speaker/Sullla - Can't trade: Mono, Calendar, HBR, IW Can research: Medi, Feud, Theo, Aesth, alpha, paper, compass, machinery
Dantski - Can't trade: Aest, HBR, IW Can research: Medi, Literacy, Dram, Feud, CS, Alpha, Calendar, Masonry, MC, Compass
Whosit - Can't trade: Medi, Mono, Aesth, IW Can research: Monarchy, Drama, theo, Music, CS, alpha, Calendar, philo, archery, HBR, MC, Compass

I also discussed with slaze and he is going to lose important city next turn. Whosit has a stack of 11 Praets+4 cats+1 axe at the gates of the Tiwanaku. He has better chances to stop Whosit before 2nd city is taken, but he was very worried about Kathlete joining the war. He also mentioned that he'll get Construction next turn.

We're almost certain to raze Alzoc III (Roman city) this turn.

Best regards,

Wall of text syndrome! What plako had done was send us the list of all the techs that each team in the game could research. This is all you can see in a No Trading game; you don't actually see what techs each civ possesses. However, since the tech tree is the same in every game of Civ4, you can work backwards from the list of what everyone can research to determine what they actually have, with the following result:


- Jowy is in just as much trouble as we expected. No Horseback Riding, no Metal Casting, no Monarchy. He's still forced to field an army of phalanxes, chariots, and catapults. That's not going to be enough (unless he gets gifted a ton of units from someone else).

- Dantski has made some weird tech choices. He never researched Masonry, but he did go for Aesthetics - not sure what that tech really does to help him. Maybe he wants one of the wonders there (???) He does have Code of Laws, Currency, and a surprising HBR tech, but he doesn't have Calendar or Metal Casting. Dantski is still a little ways away from hitting the Medieval era.

- Kathlete has surprisingly less tech than I expected! All of the Ancient age techs, and most of the Classical ones that we've been researching, but with some critical tech gaps. No Civil Service yet (although they're probably going after it now) and no Monarchy tech?!?! Seriously, huh? That's a huge mistake, they should have been running Hereditary Rule for ages with their large territorial empire.

Best of all, Kathlete has to have a huge army of outdated units. No longbows (Feudalism), no crossbows (Machinery), no maces. I expect that they probably have a huge horse archer and catapult swarm. Makes me feel better about slaze's chances if they attack, because longbows will do a good job of stopping that, or at least slowing down the horse archers to a crawl.

- At least, I *WAS* feeling good about slaze until I saw his own tech list. Holy moley, what a mess! Yeah, he's got Feudalism, so nice work there. But otherwise... urp. No Calendar, no Currency, no Metal Casting, no Horseback Riding, no Iron Working, no Construction!!! Jeez man, how were you planning on defending again?!? We always suspected that slaze was a bit of a paper tiger, all cities/expansion and nothing to back it up. Well - it kind of looks like that's true. Umm, I really hope he's able to survive and drag out this war.

The fact that 11 Praetorians and 4 catapults pose a major threat just reinforce this suspicion. Speaker and I would laugh that one off, unless we had two or three other enemy armies invading simultaneously. We're only four turns away from MACES, after all...

- Whosit is doing about average so far, albeit with some bizarre tech holes. No Archery tech is really weird at this stage of the game - huh? He's got a lot of upper-tree techs (Aesthetics and Literature) for Great Library purposes, which means some holes elsewhere on the tree: no Calendar, no Horseback Riding, no Metal Casting... and no Monarchy??? Man, what's with these other teams! Don't they all know how incredible Hereditary Rule is in this style of game? At least now we know why so few teams are running HR civic - they don't have Monarchy tech researched!

- Nakor, on the other hand, is doing just as well as we expected on tech. He really is the GNP kingpin of their team; we kind of guesstimated that from the bar graphs, but it's nice to have confirmation. He's missing Calendar and Horseback Riding, but he's up Feudalism on us. We'll have to keep an eye on his tech, I expect him to be the leader in the other alliance going forward, especially since Kathlete and Whosit look like they're about to tie themselves up in warfare.

- plako is doing surprisingly well himself! He skipped the stuff he didn't need (Calendar, Iron Working, Horseback Riding) and grabbed the stuff he did. All the way up to Civil Service and Feudalism, thanks to that well-played Merchant lightbulb. Unfortunately plako's economy has a limit to it moving forward, since it's all based around Great Lighthouse trade routes. Without more cottages, it's unlikely he can keep this going forever. But in the short run, great work dude!

The info that we obtained from Korea was critical, letting us know exactly what techs the other teams did and did not have. We shared this information with Korea, emailing it back to Broker and plako, and agreed that we would keep updating one another every 5-10 turns with new tech information. Some of the tech gaps amongst the other teams were shocking, such as slaze's overall backwardsness (aside from Feudalism) and the puzzling lack of Monarchy tech amongst Kathlete and Whosit. Perhaps they didn't value this technology with war on the horizon... but they probably should have, given how useful Hereditary Rule civic had been for us. Because war was indeed coming:

Whosit declared war on slaze as expected, attacking and capturing the border city of Tiwanaku. I included one of Whosit's pictures, demonstrating the Praetorians moving over the border and the Incan longbows retreating deeper into slaze's core. This looked like serious trouble for Inca, and most of the lurkers predicted doom for slaze when the Ottomans would join in and attack from the other side. However, even at the time, Speaker and I weren't too terribly worried about slaze. Despite his technological backwardness, Inca did have access to longbows, and neither the Ottomans nor Rome had any comparable medieval units of their own. Praetorians and horse archers don't exactly make longbows tremble; even bringing catapults to the party simply meant that there would be a brutal slaughter on both sides. It didn't help either that the opposing alliance had mis-timed their war declarations yet again, with Whosit declaring war on Turn 151 and Kathlete not able to join in due to NAP cooldown until Turn 155.

And finally, there was another factor that Whosit hadn't counted on:

Korea took advantage of Whosit's war against Inca to declare themselves, razing the border city of Alzoc III on the first turn of the war (Whosit had emptied the city of defenders). I highlighted the ruins in yellow above; Alzoc had been way too aggressive of a city plant from Whosit. This attack was a case of perfect timing, hitting Rome when all of the Praetorians and catapults were off in the north engaged with slaze. Now the tables had been flipped around from earlier, as the allied Coalition of the Willing teams were finding themselves on the wrong end of a 2 vs 1 maneuver.

Korea's war against Whosit brought in Holy Rome on Whosit's side (note the "War" message in the above screenshot), due to their stated Mutual Protection Pact. However, Nakor and DMOC didn't do much of anything to come to Whosit's aid, aside from move some of their army down to the border and sit in La Mut. Holy Rome remained afraid that they were going to be attacked by Dantski and our own Indian team, as we continued to prevaricate and leave them with no clue of our true intentions. Holy Rome would therefore largely sit out this round of wars, which was beneficial to them but had major implications for their allies...

Meanwhile, our own military planning continued:

A further expected breakdown of what we can do in terms of maces in the next 5-10 turns:

- St. Albans: 2 maces (T158, T162 - I think)
- Spartansburg: 2 maces (T156, T158 - double whips)
- Fort Henry: 2 maces (T156, T158 - double whips)
- Chancellorsville: 1 mace (T156 or T157, one whip)
- Fredericksville: 1 mace (T156 or T157, one whip)
- Antietam/Hampton Roads: ??? (what do we want to do here?)
- 2 Shock axes upgrades (250g, T157 or T158 )
- 2 Great General axe upgrades (free!)

That gets us close to a dozen maces by Turn 160, unless I miss my count. We're already building horse archers in decent numbers for some mobility, and we have a lot of catapults and axemen left over from the previous round of wars. (The axes with no experience can be left behind as garrisons in our old and safe core cities.) A sudden buildup will give little warning on the Power chart, so hopefully we'll have some success when we move to engage Jowy. Unless he would be gifted a massive amount of units from someone else, I don't think he'll be able to hold out.

Looking at a couple of these cities in a little more detail:

St. Albans quite accidentally is in a beautiful setup for unit micro! It winds up at 49/50 shields next turn on the horse archer build, then overflows 20 full shields into a maceman on the following turn when we lightbulb Machinery! This is one city where we will *NOT* be whipping, because we want to emphasize food and production, growing to a large size ASAP.

As such, I drew in the future tile output here once the city is fully developed. Yes, the main reason we're going to Guilds is for knights and grocers, however the value of that extra shield for workshops shouldn't be entirely overlooked either! Ultimately, we'll want to add six more farms and six more workshops for St. Albans, and our workers can get started right now thanks to having Civil Service to spread irrigation. At size 21, St. Albans could produce 30 base shields: that's 37/turn with forge, 67/turn with Heroic Epic, and 90/turn with factory and power plant. With Biology tech for better farms, we could add more workshops and go well over 100 shields per turn. That would be getting the most out of a location that doesn't really have particularly great terrain!

Despite the fact that we wouldn't even have Machinery until Turn 155, we nevertheless had plans to attack Jowy with close to a dozen maces by Turn 160. Lots of whips and unit micro taking place there. Also, while it's generally a bad idea to spend money upgrading units in this game (use that gold for teching instead), we did feel it was worthwhile to do two selected upgrades of highly experienced Shock axes to maces. Having a couple of elite units on hand can be the difference maker in a close engagement. Just don't go upgrading all of your old units en masse, that's a waste of cash. Our two Great General axes, of course, would get free upgrades, woot!

St. Albans was also the planned Heroic Epic city, once we were able to research up to Literature tech. Without much in the way of river commerce, it made an ideal location to farm and mine for maximum shields. We even planned to lay down a number of workshops here for extra production, which would be wasteful at most locations but a great use of terrain for our Heroic Epic city.

slaze wasn't feeling too optimistic about the imminent Ottoman attack:

Inca to Killer Angels:
I can see his [Kathlete's] border hindu cities anyway. Lotta units, 4 prats 6+ cats 5+ axe 5-10 HA, 3 3 move galleys at my east coast. I've sent you this email before, but I'm going down. I don't think it was wise of you to sign a NAP with jowy. I may be able to hold of whosit, but in the first five turms I could easily lose 2-3 cities and maybe my northern army against athlete. Not lookin good but I'll keep you posted.

Once again, we thought he was overreacting. While we couldn't see the Kathlete screenshot I have posted here, the fact remains that axes and horse archers are not going to be taking cities defended by longbows. Not without suffering horrendous casualties, anyway. Given the massive amount of whipping that slaze had carried out, and his own discovery of Construction for defensive catapults, we believed that he would be able to hold out without too many difficulties, aside from some pillaging. Perhaps if slaze had actually built some defensives ahead of time, instead of going into EXPANSION MODE, he wouldn't have needed to destroy his economy through emergency mass whipping!

More buildup in our territory:

We continued to receive emails from Jowy of Greece and Nakor of Holy Rome asking for a new Non-Aggression Pact agreement. Jowy we mostly ignored or fended off with non-answers; we were already commited to war with him, and there wasn't much point in discussing things further. Nakor, however, we responded by feigning outrage over his war with Korea, and gave a lot of hurt faces over "how could you attack our brothers in Korea?!?" This continued to give us a reasonable casus belli for war with Holy Rome, and kept Nakor and DMOC on their toes. We may have helped Korea quite a bit here, as Holy Rome kept much of their army on the northern border, prepared to defend against a phantom invasion.

The long-awaited Great Engineer from Hanging Gardens + Engineer finally appeared in St. Albans. And now we had Machinery tech and maces to play around with.

Our exploring trireme crossed the worldwrap and encountered a heated battle between the Ottomans and Inca...

With slaze of Inca winning with no losses. What can I say, we fully predicted at the time that slaze would be able to hold out, which indeed proved to be the case. The Kathlete attackers achieved nothing of consequence, and were decimated by slaze's own catapults + longbows combination:

slaze in his own thread:
Athlete split his (unpromoted) stack. I picked off 1 out of 3 prats with fodder axes (4th one had cat withdrawl down to 3.7, knocking the prat to 2.0) and then won 6 longbow v catapult battles, worst at 78% odds. Down to 2 cats, with only 2 more a tile away on the hill, he may not even take a city.

Down south, whosit has advanced onto my rice, one tile closer. next turn i will probably attack, if I can bait him one step closer.

This was a huge turn, and may be the tide.

* * * * *

Athlete still wont promote his units. Even if they're two tiles away, I still have workers. This is the beginning of the end for him; he won't be able to do anything but run away (but hopefully he sticks around for a turn cause if he stays put I'll go in for the kill).

He did, however, kill my economy. Sulla's sitting pretty over there with a size 16 capitol and my best cities are whipped down to size 3 and 4. This turn I'm losing 2 gold/turn at 0% science with 9 gold in the bank. I'd rather be working hammer tiles but that puts me at minus 15-25 gold/turn, so I'd be on strike if i did that.

With the reverse sentiments expressed in the Ottoman spoiler thread:

athlete in his own thread:

I've been adequately spanked!

It's quite apparent I've no idea about MP warfare (and probably SP as well). I've tactically withdrawn within my borders to regroup. At this point Slaze has made it clear he has no intention of signing peace so it'll be a fight to the death. I'm pretty sure I can fight him off within my borders, I just can't make any ground on him atleast not yet. I suppose if I bent my entire civ towards killing him I could take some ground from him but I'm not willing to do that. So it's a defensive battle for now. I'm only scared a bit that India is going to jump in as well as I can't understand why Slaze thinks he can manage both fronts. Perhaps he's working closely with Korea though so that may be it.

The two-pronged attack on Inca had therefore been a failure. Kathlete's attempts to take DINA ended in a massive slaughter followed by a craven retreat back to Ottoman territory. Meanwhile, in the south, Whosit's army was lured deep into Incan territory and then detroyed under a hail of catapult, longbow, and axeman attacks. Not only was the Roman army destroyed by slaze, but Korea was increasingly pressing on the Roman possessions from the other directions, as Holy Rome continued to sit on the fence without intervening in meaningful fashion. And although slaze had repelled the invasions, his economy was decimated in the process, as he whipped over 50 population away across his empire. We had been able to recover from that kind of punishment due to our many cottages and strong pre-war economy. Inca had been in a much weaker position, having over-expanded before the attack, and slaze would be a very long time in recovering from this round of attacks.

Where did that leave the world diplomatic setup? Ottomans and Rome were fully engaged with Inca. Holy Rome was at war with Korea, and on the defensive along their northern border. Dantski's Romali had a long Non-Aggression Pact with our team, and was sitting out this round of wars. All of this added up to one conclusion: there was no one available to help Greece. We could face Jowy in a 1 vs 1 showdown, and that was a conflict that he had absolutely no chance of winning.

Speaker was sharpening his knives:

And the Power graph, showing the effects of warfare elsewhere in the world:

At the bottom of the graphs... poor Jowy. I've been watching his Power rating on the Demographics (easy to track because he is "Rival Worst" in Soldier count) and he has barely trained any new units at all. On this turn, Jowy went from 180k to 182k, which is one warrior (or more likely population growth). I don't see how he can hold out against what we have assembling, outside of something like gifting all his cities to Kathlete, letting Kathlete upgrade every archer to longbow, and then gifting them all back. But that would be utter cheese, and I hope that Krill would rightly put a stamp on that sort of thing.

Poor Jowy. He had to focus on expansion and recovery after the damage caused by the previous war, and I suppose that didn't leave anything left over for military buildup. A straight horizontal line on the Power bar graphs is a bad sign... I don't think Jowy's heart was really in the game at this point, and he was more or less going through the motions. We would have to see how he conducted this upcoming war to find out.

Quick ranking of teams before embarking on our war declaration. It's a little out of place here, but interesting enough to be worth including:

Well since there's not much going on in the game tonight and we've reached 1000AD (no really, check the last screenshot!) I think I'll type up something on the current standings in this game as I see things, from my admittedly limited and biased perspective. Purely for fun so we can look back later and see how these predictions stack up. Right now, I'd rate the eight remaining teams in the following order:

1) Speaker and Sullla: Because we're awesome, of course!

More seriously, I think the Demographics show that we're in a rather strong position at present. We are essentially the best or extremely close to being the best in all the major categories, with a strong economy, good expansion prospects, and the #1 military. We also know what techs everyone else has, and no one has a sizable lead in anything important over us. About a third of the remaining teams are starting to fall meaningfully behind in tech, and that gap should only widen as this No Tech Trading game continues.

Of course, it's basically inevitable that Speaker and I will be dogpiled by a large alliance again at some point. We're both expecting this to happen down the road, since we're the biggest favorite to win and the other teams will want to stop that from happening. The question is really how much time we have before that occurs, and how strong of a lead we can get before the big attack arrives. Ideally, we could keep the current alliance structure intact until all of the opposing teams were dead (Kathlete, Nakor, Whosit, and Jowy). I don't think we'll be that lucky though, as there will likely be an alliance shift at some point, with our current allies going over to the other side. Hopefully we can preserve plako as our friend, sort of like the regoarrarr/sunrise relationship in RBPB1, since we've had such a close relationship throughout this game. If we could make it so things were no worse than a 4 vs. 2 (or something like that), I like our chances to win.

If no big alliance would ever form against us, we should win this thing going away. Because we're awesome.

2) slaze of IKZ: Yes, I rate slaze as the next-best threat to win the game after us. Even though we don't know that much about him, I think slaze is the most capable player among our opponents. He has the most cities in the game currently, is racing neck and neck with us in Food count, and has very strong prospects for future expansion with Kathlete and Whosit as neighbors. I can see some sort of outcome where slaze winds up getting most of the spoils of Kathlete's lands in a partition later on. Unlike a lot of other teams, slaze acted decisively and ruthlessly when threatened, whipping out a huge army of longbows and easily defeating the clumsy attacks that came his way. Very well played indeed.

The biggest weakness of slaze is that his economy is rather backwards, not helped by having to do all those whippings. Nevertheless, once slaze has time to sort things out and tech upwards, I think he'll be a major force and our most serious competitor.

3) Nakor of Holy Rome: I think it's very clear that Nakor's in the best position of the teams in the other alliance. Nakor has never really fought anyone in the game so far, just teched and built up, teched and built up. That along with the Darius leader (Financial/Organized) and those Rathauses on this Toroidal map, has made him into the GNP leader among our rivals. (Hard to tell how Nakor compares to us, but my best guess is that his research rate is just slightly behind ours.) Nakor looks set to ride out the current crop of wars too, escaping once again with minimal damage as others crash and burn. He will very likely land Liberalism first and slingshot a relatively cheap tech with it (Nationalism?)

Nakor's biggest issues are a lack of room for expansion, and possibly diplomatic problems moving forward. The first could be solved by teching more advanced units and attacking a backwards nation like Dantski. But I think it's more likely that Nakor will try to switch sides at some point diplomatically, and try to orchestrate an alliance against us. That's really his best chance of winning, getting other teams to do the dirty work while continuing to tech and build. So far, it's been pretty successful. We may try to pull off some kind of raiding/plundering tactic to slow down Nakor eventually. (Get Astronomy first, get galleons in the water, and start razing every coastal city. Nearly impossible to defend against in MP.)

4) Kathlete of Ottomans: This team was in amazing shape as little as three dozen turns ago, with tons of land to expand into, a captured Holy City and enemy capital, and no military threats to their territory whatsoever. Unfortunately for them, Kathlete has largely squandered a tremendous position, and is now falling back into the middle of the pack. Their tech progress has been simply underwhelming for a team with Willem as its leader (Creative/Financial) and extremely fertile terrain. With the Buddhist shrine and all of regoarrarr's territory to work with, plus cheap Creative libraries, this team should be killing all of us! Instead, they're racing desperately for Feudalism at fourth-civ research rate because they need longbows to defend their cities. Not exactly a shining moment.

The attack on slaze has clearly backfired enormously at this point, making no gains and leading to lots of dead Ottoman units. In retrospect, the real mistake was signing an NAP that had a 25-turn cooldown. That's a very, very long time in a game like this! In those 25 turns, slaze researched Feudalism, revolted to Vassalage, and whipped something like 50 population to create an army out of thin air. By the time Kathlete went on the offensive, it was too late. Longbows everywhere. I think we'll look back and see that decision as the biggest fault in Kathlete's gameplan.

If our attack on Jowy succeeds, Kathlete will be in very bad shape, sandwiched between us and slaze. That's a major reason why they get rated lower than Nakor.

5) Whosit of Rome: If you go back even further in time, I thought that Whosit would be our biggest competition to win the game, back when he was overrunning plako and had about a quarter of the continent to expand into unopposed. As it's turned out, however, Whosit has also failed to capitalize on this great situation from earlier. Not killing plako was a tremendous error, since plako was able to build an island empire fueled by Great Lighthouse trade routes. Now plako is the one burning down Whosit cities! The Roman economy is also quite weak, lacking even Monarchy last we heard, and Aggressive Praetorians have just about ended their useful shelf life. Maces will eat them for breakfast.

Whosit still has a lot of cities, and plenty of expansion room if he starts planting some island locations. But he's falling behind seriously now in technology, where Shaka's traits (Agg/Exp) won't help, and his military performance has been pretty sad outside of the early game Praetorian rush. While Whosit probably isn't in much danger of being eliminated any time soon, his chances of winning the game don't appear all that great right now.

6) plako of Korea: Honestly, I would rate plako even higher except that his cities are all coastal and have little real production to speak of. But economically, plako's just made an amazing recovery, and is one of the tech leaders at present right now along with us and Nakor. (Of course, once the Great Lighthouse obsoletes eventually, plako will be in some trouble!) I don't know what else to say, these guys are our buds and plako has played a great game since the early Whosit rush took place. But plako has little chance to win, outside of some kind of wacky AP or UN diplo victory.

7) Dantski of Romali: We all know that Dantski doesn't update his spoiler thread, rarely sends emails, and shows little interest in the game overall. Why he's involved in two different Pitboss games is a total mystery to me... Dantski's in no danger of being eliminated, but his army is full of outdated Ancient Age units, and he's fallen about half an age behind the leaders in technology. His only real chance to do anything in this game would be to carry out a successful attack on either our team or Nakor... and Dantski failed at the first option, and apparently refuses to try the second one. Since both our team and Nakor research faster than Dantski, he's only falling more and more behind in relative terms. I can't help but feel that his moment to act has already come and gone in this game. Those awful civ traits on his leader (Imp/Org, I think?) aren't helping either.

I fully expect Dantski to turn on us at some point - we don't trust him at all. That's why our southern border is getting lots of longbows, "just in case" something would flare up with Dantski...

8 ) Jowy of Greece: Not a lot to say here either. Jowy played for a high-risk, high-reward gamble by attacking us earlier. It failed, and when he signed away half his territory, he basically gave up any chance of winning or being competitive. I give Jowy credit for expanding again and trying to rebuild in the hopes that no one would attack. However, in planting those extra cities he crashed his econmy pretty badly (Jowy has 8 cities, which he definitely can't afford right now) and thus has made little tech progress over the past 25 turns. Jowy probably has fewer than 20 turns remaining to live in this game, but hey, he still did better than these guys:

9) regoarrarr/sunrise of Byzantium: It was fun while it lasted! Next time, be careful about those aggressive city placements with warriors as defenders.

10) Mortius of Zulu: Really bad luck. I wish that Mortius had had a better fate in this game.

Hope that was worth reading; it serves as a useful summary of where everyone was standing at that point in time, Turn 160. But now, we had an engagement with Jowy to get to:

We teased the readers about which city we were going to capture first, with Athens and Corinth being the top guesses. Well, that was in the ballpark, but Speaker had a different plan using Fast Worker micromanagement:

And let the fun begin.

FYI, none of you were correct in your guess about which city would fall first. But we'll get to that in a bit.

No mistakes here. I made sure to declare war, not that we had Open Borders anyways.

The first act was to road the hill and move in our sentry Horse Archer. This is what he found.

Note that with just one road connection between Corinth and Athens, the capital is in *serious* trouble. There is no way to reinforce it without exposing his units to ours.

In Civ3, combat workers were a crucial part of battle in the late game, railroading through captured territory, to keep the war machine rolling. Here are the Civ4 combat workers!

We realized that forest would flip to Greek control just before we were able to attack, so we made sure to have enough workers in the area to "help" the Greek forestry unit. This sort of move, as well as their ability to road a hill, forest, or jungle in the same turn would only be possible with Indian Fast Workers, and is a big reason why they are generally considered to be the most powerful unit in multiplayer.

We chose not to waste the general Maces at 96% odds, and instead took 75% with Horse Archers. Of course, we lost 1. But no matter. We razed Argos, since it only claims a couple of tiles that aren't split between Kassite and Thebes. I wonder if any of you guessed we'd hit Argos first, but didn't want to risk spoil-posting?

Here's the Northern front:

I forgot to take a screenshot with our stack highlighted, so this one I cobbled together will have to do. The picture that forms the base of this was from early in the turn, so the units below are what made up the stack. They are not still there. The two workers who roaded the hill are being covered by a guerrilla longbow. The two Horse Archers are a sentry and medic II.

And here's the Eastern front:

Kassite is sure to fall next turn, with just 1 Phalanx in it. We actually have 2 axes in the galley, not having enough time to get a maceman on board. We covered our 3 workers and wounded Horse Archer with an Axe and Spear, and they should be safe enough, unless there are several more two-movers behind Thebes.

Here are our original battle plans.

And that's it for the first turn of the war. If we had waited another couple turns, we could have maybe hit Athens and Kassite both by Galley on this turn as well, but we decided to just start the fireworks early.

Stay tuned for more killing tomorrow!

Chopping a forest tile inside enemy borders, allowing our horse archers to strike at Argos immediately... that was a pretty slick move on Speaker's part. I definitely would not have anticipated that, had I been the one defending. Now, how would Jowy react on his turn? The response was not quite what we were expecting:

Rather than even trying to fight us, Jowy gifted away two of his cities to the Ottomans, in total cheese fashion. This was purely done to prevent us from capturing the same locations, as now the cities would be filled with Ottoman defenders (making use of Ottoman techs that Jowy didn't have), to say nothing of the fact that we had an active Non-Aggression Pact with Kathlete. Speaker and I were pretty angry about this display of terribly poor sportsmanship. While it might not have been technically against the rules of the game, wow was it ever a spiteful gesture. Those cities were rightfully ours, and they should not have been freely gifted away to another major world power. Jowy and Nakor had even been under discussion to gift away more cities than these two, which we managed to prevent by playing quickly and capturing the cities in question. I'm well aware that the Greeks and Ottomans were long-running friends, but Jowy could not defend those cities himself, and so gifting them off to be magically protected by Ottoman units should not have been accepted. Krill let the whole thing stand, however, so on we went with the game.

Militarily, Jowy was also giving up without a fight:

So here's the setup at the start of the turn. I took these pictures last night right after the turn flip, and before Jowy played his turn:

Jowy triple-whipped both Athens and Corinth (at the swapping penalty) for catapults during Turn 161, and production finished at the start of Turn 162. His big army in Corinth was therefore very heavy on catapults, with hardly any normal non-siege ones. Athens was completely screwed here, because the army in Corinth could not move over to reach Athens due to the single road connection. (This was an example of a bad road network, definitely try not to do this in MP.) If the catapults moved anywhere outside of Corinth, we could hit them with our own stack and kill it.

Meanwhile, the situation in the south:

Speaker and I didn't know quite what Jowy was going to do; my best guess was that he would sit in Corinth and let us come to him, basically abandoning his capital to the enemy. Very tough choice, but that way he would survive a little longer. I guess we should have gleaned some of his intentions from this post in Ruff's PBEM organization thread:

"Might be interested. How long will the game run and how much of a time sink is it compared to pitboss?"

In other words, Jowy was already checking out on this game and abandoning it for greener pastures. You know what happened next from Speaker's post, as Jowy suicided his entire army against our stack on the forested hill:

We lost zero units, while Jowy lost 10 catapults, 4 phalanxes, 3 spearmen, and 2 chariots. Then he turned around and ran the archer defenders in Corinth and Thebes into the eastern fog, intending to gift them to Kathlete (I guess). I know that Jowy's goal was to give up and leave the game, but this whole play still deserves the uber weed smiley:

When Speaker saw that Jowy had gifted two cities to Kathlete, we suspected further foul play, and so we rushed to play our turn as soon as the 12-hour window opened up. In fact, not only did Jowy gift two cities to Kathlete, he also gifted all of his treasury (~300 gold) and is still in the process of gifting away his surviving units. I'll leave aside too much discussion of this for now, but suffice to say that we think this is a total cheese move, and demonstrates extremely poor sportsmanship. Dress it up however you like, this is nothing more than denying us cities that we would have conquered, and should be rightfully ours.

Kathlete is unquestionably the next target - we already owed him for the BC era sneak attack. Screw with us at your peril!

Anyway, we wanted to play quickly to prevent further cheese from Jowy. With Corinth, Thebes, and Kassite all sitting undefended, Speaker moved in horse archers to capture each one:

We moved most of the slow stack next to Athens, the catapults and enough maces to ensure its demise no matter what Jowy whipped in there. A couple units stayed behind to heal up on the hill tile (which the combat engineers will have roaded next turn). There's only a single horse archer in Corinth, but we don't believe any units from Jowy can reach that location, unless he has some secret chariots in the fog somewhere (which seems extremely unlikely). And next turn, we can move 2 maces, an axe, and a spear into Corinth as the borders of Athens will disappear.

Now here's where the cheese factor of gifting Knossus comes in. Because Kathlete is playing as Willem (Cre/Fin), that city will get free Creative culture and steal away several of Corinth's tiles - not to mention, making it a very difficult location to defend. We're going to have to get a theatre in here relatively soon for safety's sake; probably have to research Drama after we make our run at the Music free Great Artist. (This would also let us get an early start on the Globe Theatre.) Needless to say, if anyone expects us to be pleased with Jowy's actions this turn, think again. Knossus is going to be a thorn in our side for some time to come.

Here is the south, where things look a little better. Next turn we will have plenty of defenders to reinforce Thebes (mace + axe + spear) and there are a pair of longbows coming in right behind them. The central location of Thebes and its hill location will make it the focal point of our defense in the east going forward. Speaker wants to use the Great Artist from Music (if we get it) to drop a culture bomb in Thebes, but I'm going to argue for saving it for a Golden Age (hopefully one extended by the Mausoleum, which we'd like to get).

Kassite has our other Great General mace defending for the moment, and our galley will head over to check out Kushans, which was just gifted to Kathlete. Also note the phalanx and galley running away for their lives like... well, you can read the caption! It's a shame that we don't have our trireme up here to sink that galley. I'm sure both units will be gifted to Kathlete, to trouble us in the future.

I understand why Jowy wanted to check out of this game as soon as possible. His empire was in a very difficult position, and I can't imagine that playing the turns was much fun at this point. Nevertheless, Jowy simply gave up the minute that our units attacked. That is an unquestionable fact. Since the whole spirit of Realms Beyond is based around never giving up and playing things out to the bitter end - well, it was a disappointment. Understandable, but still a disappointment. Jowy could have made things much, much more difficult on us if he had carried out a proper defense. (Think of the worthy defensive struggle waged by the Templars in the Apolyton game, despite all their other faults.) Winning without losing any units was good news for us, but an underwhelming end to the game for a very credible opponent.

And make no mistake, this was indeed the end:

Jowy produced one extra catapult in Athens, which suicided against our stack. Jowy even attacked OUT of the city with his one remaining archer; I guess he really wanted to get this game over with. That effectively ended the war; Greece was totally destroyed in the span of three turns, and with the loss of exactly one unit on our side. We jokingly referred to Jowy's mass suicide of units as the "Negative 300", a bizarre reversal of the famous Spartan stand at Thermopylae. It took a couple more turns to ferry our units over to Jowy's final island city and administer the coup de grace:

Our maces were only getting 60% odds to beat the fortified archer in a city on a hill. Since one of them had a promotion to use, I went ahead and took City Raider I, which increased the odds to what you see above. I fully expected to lose this unit, but that's why we brought a second mace! (Makes you stop and consider for a moment: if one archer in a piddly city on a hill could have odds this good against maces, how much tougher would things have been if Jowy actually fought back against us? While I don't think he could have won, it certainly would have been a rough struggle to get through 8 cities of emergency whipped defenders. He just gave up too quickly and too easily.)

Fortunately, the 2/3 odds played in our favor and we won without taking much damage:

Oh boy, a whole 9 gold! The city did have a granary, but we had already decided to raze this spot unless plako asked us to gift it to them (which they did not). So I happily selected the "Burn Baby, Burn!" option and that was the end of that!

Let's give 'em a taste of how we do things around here!

We had successfully leveraged the worldwide series of conflicts to eliminate one of our opponents and expand out from 10 to 15 cities. While you might think that this would be the end of our worries for some time, instead another controversy was erupting with the Ottomans to our east, threatening to pull us into another unwanted war. Days of interesting and surprising diplomacy lay just over the horizon!