Realms Beyond Pitboss #6: Live Blog

I had several different requests to keep posting intermittent thoughts on the ongoing Pitboss #6 game. Normally I would post them in the forums at Realms Beyond... but as I detailed on the front page earlier, I was having a lot of issues there, and the atmosphere was becoming too toxic to be much fun. Fortunately, I have the ability to fall back on my own website, where I can post my thoughts without having to worry about harassment or other irritants. So that's what I'm going to try to do, use this page as a Liveblog of sorts and update it every few days with information on what we're doing at the moment. While it's a bit more work to type things up in html and then upload them to my server, I still think it should work out fine and provide a way to get some thoughts out there for anyone who's curious.

Our forum thread at Realms Beyond contains the background for this game up to this point. It can be found here.

A short summary of what took place so far: we are playing an Always War game with four teams of 3 players each, using a Medieval era start on a Lakes map. We decided to open by researching Music tech, in a minor gambit for the free Great Artist located at that tech (there were also some economic reasons, but you'll have to read the forum thread to get the full details on that). This ended up working out as planned, and our early game went very well indeed. We quickly discovered that the map was very defensive in nature, and that it would be difficult for anyone to attack one another. We decided to play a "Tall" opening to the game, building up the capitals to a very large size and taking advantage of Bureaucracy civic, rather than try to expand outwards first with lots of settlers at a smaller capital size. By and large this worked out very well - we captured slightly less land than some of the other teams, but by working so many cottages at our capitals, we secured an early research lead that we have managed to hold onto so far.

Since that point, we've continued expanding and building up without too much fuss. We had some minor border squabbles with the other teams, without anything too dramatic taking place. Eventually, Speaker used our Great Artist for a culture bomb, granting a huge increase in territory on our eastern border, and ultimately allowing him to capture/raze two cities from our rivals. Those razings, along with the vast territory controlled by the culture bomb, locked down our northeast frontier. Focus has now shifted to the southeast border against Rome, the wild and unsecured northern border (currently contested between three teams), and the large western border, where I have a very large front to defend against France. We have a significant tech lead, having just taken Liberalism's free tech, but the game is far from over yet.

***** 18 January 2012 *****

What's been going on in the last week? Well, we did take Liberalism and the free tech of Nationalism:

There are actually two different economic paths that a team can take in this situation, both of which are quite powerful. One of them is the standard Education -> Liberalism path that everyone is familiar with from Single Player Civ4. This tech path obviously lets the team build universities, build Oxford University eventually, and increase their research output through a higher beaker multiplier. Of course only one team can take Liberalism's freebie bonus, but the tech path is still a strong one. The alternate tech path is forgoing the Education line to research Feudalism -> Guilds -> Banking. This allows a team to increase their research output through building grocers and banks, indirectly increasing research by creating a higher gold multiplier. If one person on the team is funding the research of the other players (which is how you should be playing in a teamer game like this), the "banker" player can increase their gold output substantially by racing to Banking tech, thereby allowing their teammates to research at a much faster rate as they get fed gold each turn. Banking tech also allows the use of Mercantilism civic, which is extremely powerful in an Always War context like this game, where there can never be foreign trade route income at all.

So how did all this play out in the course of the Pitboss #6 game? Different teams chose to prioritize different tech paths. Team 2 (Luddite/Lewwyn/antisocialmunky) went for the standard Education tech path: after taking some standard early game techs, they researched Paper (3t) -> Education (10t). It took them a very long time to get the expensive Education tech, but they did reach it fairly early on, and can now get started on universities/Oxford. (Side note: this is a Huge map and it therefore takes 8 universities to start Oxford. That's going to take a long time for everyone!) The tradeoff is that Team 2 has no Feudalism, no Guilds, and no Banking - they can't even build longbows or knights! Dangerous.

In contrast to this, Team 3 (WarriorKnight, Shoot the Moon, oledavy) chose to beeline early on for Banking tech. After Civil Service and Machinery, they beelined straight to Banking tech: Feudalism (9t), Guilds (8t), Banking (4t). They finished Banking before even getting Engineering tech! This was a really smart decision on their part, as they pursued an aggressive expansion strategy that left their team almost completely bankrupt. At one point, oledavy was running 100% gold and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, due to overexpansion. They didn't NEED a higher beaker multiplier from universities, they needed banks to get their crashed economy out of the doldrums. Being the first team in the game to swap into Mercantilism also gave them a significant advantage; I watched their GNP graphs before and after making the swap, and it made a huge difference. Team 3 therefore made a wise decision, based on their position in the game, and the expansionistic strategy that they chose to pursue.

And our team? We have by far the best research in the game, so that means we get to be greedy and take the best of both worlds. We felt it was most important to research military techs first for defensive purposes, so we got Civil Service, Machinery, and Engineering. Then we picked up Paper and Philosophy (both relatively cheap), at which time we saw that Team 3 had already researched Guilds. So we followed them to Guilds (need to be able to build knights!), and then went back to our Liberalism beeline. We did not take Banking until after getting Education/Liberalism, which was somewhat non-ideal from an pure economic standpoint, but we didn't want to take chances on someone else landing the free tech with some kind of crazy Great Scientist push. Better to be safe than sorry. Now we can backtrack and clean up some of the cheaper techs missed earlier, many of which were discounted by other teams researching them. (Thanks everyone for getting Theology tech and decreasing the price!)

The net result is that we are far ahead on total beakers researched:

Team 1: 21,910 beakers
Team 2: 12,015 beakers
Team 3: 11,132 beakers
Team 4: 6361 beakers

In Civilization, technology normally equals destiny. The side with the better research usually wins more often than not. Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go before this game is anywhere close to being finished. Hopefully we will be able to leverage our tech advantage into a military edge and use it to be decisive. Next time, I'll talk a bit more about the military situation on my borders, and where I'm thinking about expanding next.

***** 22 January 2012 *****

OK, a few days have passed since I last updated. I'll update the tech situation first, and then talk more about what's going on militarily. Since I made that big post above about everyone's research to date, Team 3 went ahead and picked up Education tech. They actually reached the tech in just 4 turns, not sure if they had help from a Great Scientist on not. In any case, that was a significant bump for Team 3, although they are still a long way behind our team (14k researched to 8k researched, roughly - not using actual beakers here). We have gone ahead and researched Optics, moving on to Printing Press (4t) next, taking Optics to control the waterways:

This was a couple of turns ago, at Dave's undefended city of Aboukir Bay. It's a shame that I didn't build a galley instead of a trireme, because I actually could have killed this spot with just a warrior on board. I never expected to find such an aggressive plant, and especially not an aggressive plant that was undefended! Oh well. I did spot the city though, and I was happy to pillage the seafood resources and coastal blockade the location (which is not banned for this game, in an oversight than no one thought about). Dave responded by whipping out a trireme/galley pair, and sending them against my trireme. I thought that name "GTFO" was a bit impolite, especially since players aren't supposed to be communicating with one another in game with cutesy renaming of units. In any case, the combat went about as expected, with my trireme winning the first battle, and then losing to the galley. We just finished Optics tech so that we can build caravels and establish control over the seas again. I expect that Team 3 will follow us to Optics and build their own caravels, but that will still force them to invest more research into this area. Since we research faster than them, they will never catch up just by following us on the tree. We should be able to get to Astronomy and Chemistry long, LONG before their team, and then take complete dominance of this little sea.

The other reason for success on the water is the location of my Heroic Epic city:

This is Crescendo, which has finished the Heroic Epic since taking this screenshot. I have it set up for 20 base shields at the moment, which gets modified by Forge and Heroic Epic to produce 45 shields/turn on military units. Now this can be increased further, as I have the ability to irrigate down from the north and farm all the plains/grassland tiles for more food. Workers are about to get started on that. If I farm the three plains tiles and the grassland, there's enough food to work the other two plains hills. Throw in a free Mercantilism Engineer specialist, and that adds up to 32 base shields/turn at size 14, multiplied to 72 shields/turn with Forge and Heroic Epic. On Quick, that would build just about any unit in 1t - and since the city is located on the water, I can also build a Drydocks later and crank out naval units even faster. Controlling the sea that lies between myself and Dave will be a major goal moving forward in this game.

Here's an overview of my civ from a couple turns ago (large image):

Crescendo is in the northwest, on the water as indicated. My recent cities are Cannon Barrage in the south (under the interface) and the two northern cities, Dazzle and Headbutt Pulv. All of these cities are growing nicely now, and I'm ready to expand again soon. I want to get at least one city in the northwest, hopefully two up there eventually, and then place another city in the southwest on the water, at the horses across the water from Sandstorm Fury. However, before planting there I needed to have Optics tech for enough caravels to protect the location from being boated by Dave. That's why the spot had to wait a little bit longer. Most of my cities are on infrastructure, building towards 8 universities so that I can start Oxford in the capital. I believe that I have enough military at the moment to defend myself - let's hope that I'm right!

Next I'm going to look at three areas of current conflict, starting in that same northwest region:

Oh, I should mention that the Great Scientist was produced for free by Speaker's Great Library (guess it was worth it to build that after all!), who will be traveling to me for a double Golden Age when paired with Taj Mahal. 12 turns is a very long time on Quick speed - Golden Ages are actually much better on Quick speed, since you get 6t instead of 8t, when the proper 2/3 modifier would given you 5.33 turns. Guess we decided to round up in testing on that. 12 turns from a double Golden Age are actually worth 18 turns on Standard speed, when of course you would only get 16 turns from a double Golden Age there. If we hadn't banned Mausoleum, it would be even more ridiculous (18 turns of Golden Age on Quick = 27 turns on Standard! Yikes!) But I guess that's why we did ban the Mausoleum.

I am going to need a lot of worker labor up here. I have three workers, and I'd like at least one more to help develop this area. For one thing, I have to bring irrigation down to the south so that my Heroic Epic city can farm all of those plains tiles and get additional food/production. I also want to plant my next city on the grassland forest tile immediately north of where my workers are standing, in a spot that takes triple food bonuses and controls the passes through those mountains. I would actually like a city there plus another one on the jungle hill tile where my archer is standing next to the fish resource, although that might take a bit of time. With the Heroic Epic city right there, and a huge mass of jungle still blocking Thoth's access from the north, this area shouldn't be too difficult to defend. I'll need a lot of workers to chop all that jungle though.

I'm hoping that Thoth will move his archer onto the plains hill tile next turn. I can kill it instantly with my knight if he does. Actually, even if he fortifies on the current tile, I can still kill his archer next turn! (Fast Workers road, knight moves and attacks.)

This is the area northeast of my civ, and northwest of Speaker's starting position. This spot is currently fiercely contested between three different teams, Speaker (Team 1) and Lewwyn (Team 2) and Thoth (Team 4). There are a lot of units from all sides walking about, and the jungle tiles makes it so no one wants to attack anyone else. Unfortunately Lewwyn planted his city just before Speaker planted Lanewick, and that was enough to get the borders popped first for their team and control the intervening space. Our biggest fear here is that someone just popped a Great Artist (and it was probably Team 2, since they have built a lot of wonders that produce Artist points), which could very well end up being used in this area. If Lewwyn uses a culture bomb here, he will almost certainly be able to kill Speaker's fledgling city. However, it wouldn't be quite as harmful as the culture bomb we used earlier, since Speaker's capital is nearby and its culture will be resistant to a bomb. This is still a dangerous position and one that requires a lot of attention at present.

This is to the southeast of Speaker, and the northeast of sunrise, on our border with Team 3's Rome. WarriorKnight has been able to control most of the disputed territory down here in the south, and we honestly have probably failed the most in this area. We were not able to push east at all with sunrise, which was of course due to the fact that we didn't want to settle cities forward in the direction of Aggressive Rome. So their civ pick enabled Team 3 to get a bit of extra land on this front, as we didn't want to challenge Aggressive Praetorians in an early game struggle. This city looks to be a bit of a pain though, opening up a water route for WarriorKnight's more mature cities to try and boat Speaker. While I don't think there is any serious danger at present, Speaker whipped out a caravel to push back that trireme. We're actually hoping to bait it into moving forward, then killing the trireme with our caravel. Attacking that Roman city itself is not really feasible at present.

Now here's a point to consider. Team 3 has a lot of cities, and they definitely have more overall cities than we do. However, this means that they also have to defend more cities than we do, which makes attacking anywhere somewhat difficult. Just from what we can see, they have significant garrisons in a whole bunch of different areas. This means that it will be a bit tricky for them to gather their forces and attack in any one location. And the longer the game goes, the better things are for our team, because we have the research edge. We want to stretch things out and ride our superior economy until we can get a decisive tech edge - then strike a weak target. Probably Team 4, since they are a very long way behind the other teams. There have been some indirect indicators that other teams are fighting: a Great General was just born in someone else's territory, and Luddite of Team 2 (who doesn't border us at all) has been whipping a lot. Possible fighting between Luddite of Team 2 and Shoot the Moon/Davy of Team 3? I sure hope so! Other teams fighting one another can only be good for us.

Things are going to get really fun in a few more turns when I finish Taj Mahal and kick off that double Golden Age. Should be able to top 600 beakers/turn easily when that goes down. Stay tuned!

***** 26 January 2012 *****

Two turns played, two polar opposite results from fortune. First the bad, then the good.

Remember how Thoth had an archer on that jungle hill tile with the pigs? I had the perfect setup to kill his archer: road the plains hill, attack and kill the archer with a knight. Well, I did everything correct... and then my knight lost at 98.7% odds to his archer. Seriously, WTF was up with that. I am not one to complain about low-odds dice rolls normally, but this was extremely obnoxious. Not only did I lose my knight, but the highly improbable result cost me the two Fast Workers as well. I suppose that I shouldn't have attacked without another unit prepared to cover the workers in case I lost. Then again, if you aren't willing to take 99% odds on the attack, there's no point in fighting. In the end, I lost the knight and two Fast Workers (220 shields) to kill one archer (25 shields). What an awful trade that was! Killing the archer this turn didn't make me feel any better. Pretty unlucky here in this incident.

I suppose I shouldn't complain too much. At least I didn't lose a city off of this. I've actually seen people lose entire games in Multiplayer with City Elimination on due to horrendous low-odds results. Axeman attacks warrior on flat ground, loses, warrior takes city and eliminates player. It can happen! Never happened to me personally, but I have seen it in games that I played in. Overall this was a pretty big setback. Losing those workers will delay the development of this area by a fair margin. I'm going to have the capital crank out some 1t workers to make up the slack, as I really need more of them right now. Capital will get right on that as soon as it finishes the Taj Mahal.

Now for the good news of the turn. Speaker gifted me the Great Scientist produced by his Great Library (much greatness there), and I was able to pop it for a Golden Age. Notice the beaker total in the screenshot above: 569 beakers/turn. I dunno quite what the other civs are producing, but I'll bet it's nowhere close to that! Entering into the Golden Age also allowed me to swap civics into Mercantilism, stacking a free specialist in each city. I went for mostly Scientists, along with a few Engineers in locations where the extra production would make a real difference. This Golden Age couldn't be much better timed, letting many of my cities work on universities. Hopefully I'll have eight of them ready by the end of the Golden Age, so that the capital can start on Oxford University. Everyone on our team is now in Mercantilism civic and sunrise just finished a stock exchange in his capital, which greatly increased his gold production (from about 130 gold/turn up to about 175 gold/turn). This will let Speaker run a higher science percentage, and translate into higher overall research for our team. Check out that tech bar at the top of the screenshot: we should be able to get Printing Press next turn with a little micro. Printing Press in just 3t - not bad, eh?

Here is Requiem, my godlike capital while in Golden Age mode. As silly as this looks, it will be even more amusing next turn after we get Printing Press and all those villages/towns get another commerce point. I need sunrise to send me a Taoist missionary at some point for another monastery here, and it's not too long before I have Oxford and an observatory. That would be another +135% science, in addition to the +50% commerce and +110% science that the city currently gets. Yeah, it's a bit silly!

We were discussing which tech to go for next after Printing Press, weighing more economic techs against military alternatives. So long as we're in no danger from the other teams, my preference is to push for more economic advantage. Everyone has Feudalism for longbows right now, meaning that it's a poor time for offensive warfare. We can look to push forward when we hit Rifling for rifles and (more importantly) cavalry. I do want us to get Military Tradition and Gunpowder techs for cuirassiers, but again, they don't seem to be an urgent need. Astronomy is another attractive tech, made less so because Speaker and I are already building universities. We don't quite need observatories just yet, not until those universities finish. Therefore I think the next tech to pursue should be Constitution: this will open up Representation civic, which is a very big deal when everyone is running Mercantilism! It would also synergize well with Speaker's Great Library and his free Scientists.

There's just one problem with all this: Requiem is only happy at size 18 because I have it stuffed full of militay police units for Hereditary Rule purposes. As great as Representation might be, I need to come up with some more happiness to cover the +8 happiness that I'm going to lose from Hereditary Rule. How to get that? First of all, Representation provides +3 happiness to your largest cities (we actually get Representation benefit for 5 cities here, since this is a Huge map). That covers some of the happiness gap. Secondly, if I can hook up gems at that new city, I can cancel the gems trade I'm getting from Speaker, and he can then send me dyes and spices. With a cheap theatre to double dyes happiness, that's another +3 happiness. Finally, there's another benefit on the tech tree at Constitution: the jail building. And my civ India just so happens to have a unique building replacement for the jail, in the form of the mausoleum! The unique benefit of the mausoleum: +2 happiness. Well, well, well. That couldn't have worked out much better! We'll be going for Constitution next, and we should be able to get it in 4t with my civ in Golden Age mode.

Elsewhere, Speaker killed a Roman trireme with his first caravel, and I have launched my own caravels into the water for the first time. The interesting question at the moment is whether Team 3 will follow us on the tech tree to Optics to build their own caravels. I expect that they will. How long though? Should be fun to see how they respond.

***** 3 February 2012 *****

A week since the last update, time to let anyone reading this know what's going on. I'll start in the far south over by sunrise, where we spotted some of Team 3's units trying to sneak through the tundra:

There was a Roman horse archer and a French explorer moving through this area. I thought that they were probably going for the circumnavigation bonus, but so far it hasn't popped up in the event logger, even though it looked like Team 3 got a full picture of the world map. Did another team already take it earlier in the game (?) I could have simply missed it earlier, I suppose. In any case, the naval units for Team 3 are still at the default movement for the moment. Speaker moved down a couple of knights, and we killed the French explorer from Dave. I was sweating the 97% odds after that last combat result, let me tell you. That prompted the horse archer to retreat:

The south pole is right at the bottom of that screenshot, so there's no room to retreat further in that direction. The new city planted here by sunrise (to get access to the furs, it does have one fish resource to avoid being completely terrible) gives us vision of anyone trying to pass through this area. No one should be able to send a bunch of knights or horse archers into our back lines now. There are still a few tiles of fog in the extreme south, which Speaker will clear out with one of his knights.

To my west, I've gotten my first caravels into the water, and continue to explore the western sea:

Dave actually has not one, but two island cities, each defended by a single longbow. These cities are almost indefensible against serious attack - I would not have planted them without having firm naval control of the waters first. I'm more convinced than ever that this sea is going to be one of the key locations that determines this game. We need to seize control of the oceans and eliminate these island cities. Dave made an overly aggressive play here, and we need to make him pay for it! The current plan is to have Speaker send over a bunch of knights/cuirassiers as soon as we research Astronomy, and hit these island cities immediately. We should be able to reach Astronomy/Chemistry before Team 3 can do so, and use a combination of galleons and frigates to control the sea. The island cities honestly should not be able to survive a determined naval assault. The port cities on the mainland could potentially also be targets, depending on what happens. If worse comes to worst, we could force Dave to stack a ton of defenders in all of them and coastal blockade them into irrelevance. That's what we did to Nakor in the Pitboss #2 game, and even though we captured few of his cities, we destroyed his economy in the process. More on this as we research more technology.

Let's look next at more domestic and economic concerns. I finally got around to planning a dotmap for the south:

Still room for five good cities, and then two fillers of lower quality. Possibly even one or two more locations in the extreme south, if there are more food resources hiding in the fog. Orange dot has been waiting on Optics tech and enough caravels to ensure its safety from a boating attack, and will be getting planted next turn. It's another very strong location and will add whales for another happiness resource. After that I'll try to get the Green, Blue, and Yellow spots in some order. Speaker will send me a couple more settlers to help out with these locations. That light green dot with the deer is also pretty good in its own right, but it will open up another location to defend against Dave, so planting it has to be done carefully. Purple (no food resources) and White look to be pretty weak, but hey, it's almost always worthwhile to add more cities eventually. We'll see.

My beaker count has been going up at a fantastic rate during the Golden Age, thanks to lots of universities going up:

T144: 432 beakers/turn (Pre-Golden Age)
T145: 569 beakers/turn
T146: 626 beakers/turn (Printing Press)
T147: 637 beakers/turn
T148: 698 beakers/turn (Two Universities)
T149: 717 beakers/turn

Yes, I'm in a Golden Age and all, but that's still pretty good. We'll finish Constitution next turn, and I should be able to get my beaker count over 750/turn once I swap into Representation civic. Capital might be unhappy for one turn or so, we're going to have to do a nice song and dance shifting the happiness resources around once I lose Hereditary Rule military police. I think that I've figured out how to do things with a minimum of fuss; Speaker and I are going to shift around some luxuries until I can complete my mausoleum in the capital and get those whales up and running. Fortunately we do also have another incense and those furs about to be connected by sunrise, and Representation civic provides happiness itself to the most populous cities. In even better news, I'm only a few turns away from completing 8 universities across my civ, and should be able to have the capital start Oxford after finishing a theatre and mausoleum for happiness purposes. Hopefully I can use the last four or five turns of the Golden Age to complete Oxford in that monstrous capital of mine. There's even a Taoist missionary on the way for another monastery - every 10% science helps!

We are nearly done researching Constitution tech at this point. We fell just shy of completing it in three turns of research, about 300 beakers short I believe. That will allow Speaker to complete the tech next turn, then sunrise and I can revolt directly into Representation on the same turn (one of those little quirks of the sequential turns - you can play around with who ends turn first and get minor benefits from it). We should also have enough overflow to follow up Constitution with an impressive 1t research of Gunpowder tech, since it's a cheap tech and gets a huge pre-requisite bonus. Barring something changing due to the other teams, the current research plan is to finish Constitution, then go Gunpowder, Military Tradition (this unlocks cuirassiers), Astronomy, Chemistry. The last two techs will initiate our push for naval dominance in the western sea against Davy. Astronomy is also timed to complete shortly after my cities have completed their universities, so that they can go right on to the next tech building in sequence. Honestly, the double Golden Age could not have hit much better for knocking out all those expensive universities. Observatories are much cheaper to build.

As far as the other teams go, Team 3 did indeed follow us to Optics tech, and can now build their own caravels. We're hoping that by the time they have a sizable fleet of caravels, we'll have reached Astronomy tech and can start sinking them with ease again. If Team 3 wanted to get really clever, they could go straight from Optics to Astronomy, which would be a strong move for controlling the western sea. However, this would put them extremely far behind us in the push down the Military Tradition/Rifling line of techs, so I wouldn't expect them to do that. (They still lack Music, Theology, and Printing Press. A long way away from cuirassiers right now.) As always, should be fun to see what they do.

Team 2 did something completely unexpected: they researched Liberalism. That was a whaaaaat?! moment for sure. Aside from the free tech, Liberalism isn't very desirable as a research target. The only other things it offers are Free Speech and Free Religion civics, both of which seem underpowered in this game. Free Speech towns will be great eventually, definitely, but I can't imagine that it would be superior to Bureaucracy civic at this stage of the game. Free Religion seems inferior to both Organized Religion's economic development and Theocracy's unit production, depending on what a civ wants to emphasize. I really don't see the logic behind this choice, especially not when Team 2 still lacks Feudalism tech (!!!) and all of the other useful techs behind it, like Guilds and Banking. Team 2 still can't build longbows or knights, craziness! The only thing that I can think of is that they somehow didn't know that we already had the free tech. Was someone not checking the event logger each turn? But even then, you can simply highlight Liberalism and it will tell you whether the free tech has been taken. They must have wanted Liberalism for some other reason. I can't see what that is!

Team 4 is incredibly far behind and not really a competitor in this game. They've researched less than half the beakers of the other teams, and less than a third of the beakers we've researched. The main story there is who devours them and takes over their land. We plan to get rifles/cavs and make our push against Team 4 after that. More to come in the next update in a few turns!

***** 8 February 2012 *****

This is going to be a short update. Team 3 used Fast Workers to build two roads on their border with sunrise, and we are anticipating them to move in some kind of attack stack next turn. (We're pretty sure that we have enough defense to stop them if they do.) Therefore, I want to get some of the other less pressing details about what's going on in the game out of the way first.

Over in the west, I continue to find more of Dave's cities planted along the coast. He has five or six of them as far as I can see. I know that I've been repeating this, but these spots are really not defensible against a determined attack. Too many places to guard at once. The only way to safeguard these spots is to build a huge navy, and I haven't seen a single caravel out of Dave as yet, despite their research of Optics tech. If we play things correctly, we can actually set things up to attack with cuirassiers on the turn after discovering Astronomy: research 99% of Astronomy tech, have Speaker finish the tech on his turn while mostly accumulating gold for upgrades, on my turn then use some of that gold to upgrade galleys into galleons and load up the ships, then move and unload/attack on the following turn. Basically no time for Team 3 to respond before the galleons are unloading the units and attacking those island cities. I could hit all three of those cities shown there on the second turn after Astronomy tech is discovered. We'll see if we can make it happen.

Domestically, my beaker rate continues to climb. In the two turns since the last post, my science rate has grown from 717 beakers/turn up to 775 beakers/turn on the first turn, and then up to 825 beakers/turn on this turn. Yeah, it's a bit silly. The double or triple Golden Age timed to hit right at Liberalism is one of the most powerful moves that you can make in this game. It's been the dominant factor in each of the Pitboss games I've played: pulling us level with the top teams in the Apolyton game, turning Nakor from an also-ran into a major competitor in RB Pitboss #2, and leading to Parkin's victory in Pitboss #4. Hopefully, our team is in the middle of just such a boom at the moment, and in the process of establishing a decisive lead that translates into victory. As amazing as the Golden Age has been for raw beaker production and building those expensive universities across my civ, it's been doing wonders as well in the brand-new cities just getting started out. They build their forges much, MUCH faster with all that bonus production, and then they can hire their free Mercantilist Engineer specialist that much faster, and then the free beakers from Representation civic get kicked in, and so on. Civ has always been one of the biggest snowball games, and the Golden Age(s) push the snowball down the hill that much faster.

I did some pretty fancy tile-swapping micro on this last turn to set up the building of Oxford University in my capital. At the moment, I have five universities complete, and you need to have eight of them to build Oxford. One university completes next turn naturally. Another university could be triple-whipped to completion and had plenty of population to spare. For the last city, I had to check the number of shields needed to set up a three-pop whip (at size 6), and then borrow some tiles and force a halt to growth so that it could just barely meet the requirements. I'll execute the two whips and have the eight universities I need after next turn. This will let me use the final four turns of the Golden Age to build Oxford in my capital, which takes precisely four turns to build with stone. Nice timing, that. I was hoping that I could use the Golden Age production to crank out Oxford ASAP, and it looks like it should work out.

A Golden Age makes the Demographics look really sweet. The GNP number is somewhat disingenous, as I snapped this when I was researching Gunpowder tech, which grants a larger tha normal bonus beaker multiplier. (Most techs give you 20% bonus beakers, while Gunpowder gives you 40%. This artificially inflates the GNP count.) And I'm in a Golden Age. Nevertheless... that's some domination right there. None of our rivals are really competitive with us on raw research. My rough tech score count has us at 19.4k research points, compared to 12.4k for Team 3, and 10.9k for Team 2. (Team 4 has a mere 5.3k - ouch!) We've researched more than half again the beakers of any other team, closing in on double our rivals. Their lack of economic techs like Printing Press and Constitution is really helping us here. And if they detour to those techs, well, that slows their path to cuirassiers and rifles.

Team 3 helped us out a lot by researching Gunpowder tech. That's a nice military option, but it actually cheapened the tech for us, as we followed them there immediately thereafter. We actually had enough overflow to knock it out in a single turn, heh. No one has any techs up on us, and we are up some combination of Music, Optics, Theology, Constitution, and Printing Press on our rivals. Team 2 still doesn't have Feudalism, for no reason I can understand. Team 3 needs to get Music before they can go for Military Tradition, and they won't be getting many double-promoted units without Theology for Theocracy civic, plus they lack the econ techs. Meanwhile, Speaker is getting TRIPLE promoted knights (soon to be cuirassiers) from his combination of Theocracy + Mongolian gers. That's a huge deal, as triple promoted knights can take Formation promotion and slaughter enemy knights at about 80% odds, better than that if siege weapons weaken the stack. This is why we picked Mongolia as a civ in the first place.

The one real danger is our team's low Food count. Team 3 has had a definite edge there, and still do. This adds an element of true risk, as Food is always vital in Civ4. I am catching up to their lead, but still short of Dave and Shoot the Moon. Better news is that Speaker is tops in the Power ranking, and with defender's advantage we should clean up in any battle. I'm really curious now as to what Team 3 is going to do. Them moving in with ~20 knights would be about the best thing possible for us!

***** 13 February 2012 *****

This game is interesting in all sorts of ways. I do wish that I were posting this on the forums, where people could respond, but that just wasn't in the cards for this event.

As it turned out, Team 3 wasn't planning on attacking us. They built this road right up to the border with sunrise, and darned if it didn't look like an attack was coming, but it proved to be nothing more. There's a Sentry knight over here, and I believe that Rome wanted the road so they could move up the horse archer, look into sunrise's territory, and then move back on each of their turns. Not a bad plan, and certainly better than launching a suicidal attack against sunrise. Instead, Team 3 appears to have been doing some exchanges with Team 2, judging by the number of defensive whips we saw on CivStats. I'm pretty sure that Team 3 razed one of their cities, a smallish one judging by the population involved. Hard to know for certain with only CivStats. This area in the southeast hasn't seen any action, and likely won't anytime soon.

In the north, Speaker has been skirmishing with Thoth of Team 4:

Thoth was moving a medium-sized stack through the jungles in this region, and looked to be getting ready to plant another city. Speaker also wanted to add his own banner here on the marked "X" tile, and used some Fast Worker roads to get the jump on the enemy. One of our pikes lost to their knight at something like 75% odds, but otherwise we cleaned house and killed about six units. Lost only the one pikeman. Speaker then founded his own city, built Culture (thanks to having Music tech), and instantly expanded the borders due toQuick speed. That changed the area thusly:

This little corner of the jungle is now clearly under our control. Thoth probably can't venture beyond The Alamo. Notice that Lanewick has also seized control of the disputed tiles between itself and the Lewwyn (Team 2) city to the north of it. Speaker chopped/whipped a theatre here, and then Mercantilism provided a free Artist specialist. With another non-free Artist and the default culture from religion, Speaker is getting 13 culture/turn here, and since it only take 50 culture for the third-ring expansion on Quick, Lanewick expanded borders very rapidly. Control of those three jungle tiles opens up a Fast Worker road + attack move against Lewwyn: road the gems tile, then move north onto the forested jungle hill. With cuirassiers in hand now, Speaker is going to take a stab and see if he can claim this location. If it's too heavily defended, no big deal. If it's not too much trouble to capture, we can raze and replace the city location. One tile southeast looks to be a good spot to me, still claiming the rice without being culturally crushed by other Lewwyn/Thoth cities. We'll see.

Now I explained in the last post how I did a little bit of city micro to get Oxford queued up faster in the capital. Here's a micromanagement problem that T-Hawk would enjoy solving:

If I ran the normal commerce configuration in the capital, it would build Oxford in three turns. Alternatively, I could build it in two turns by running the maximum possible amount of production (and overflowing a full turn's worth of production from a nearly-completed barracks, haha!) The production setup loses out on commerce though in order to finish the national wonder faster. Which setup is superior in this situation?

The answer is to maximize production, as seen above. The slight food deficit doesn't matter, and the lost commerce is more than made up for by finishing Oxford a turn sooner. Requiem lost about 30 beakers each turn it wasn't working the lake tiles and the Scientist. But it gained 150 beakers from finishing Oxford a turn faster. Yes, that +100% beaker modifier makes quite a difference! Speaker is the one who actually pointed this out to me. I wasn't sure that it would come out ahead this one, and then when I checked it, the faster Oxford came out far, far ahead in beaker count. There's a good lesson here: rushing Oxford ASAP is the way to go. We really need to get more universities in Speaker's cities so he can build it too.

That screenshot was from two turns ago. I duly built Oxford, and research increased by a staggering amount, up almost 200 beakers/turn from Oxford alone (!!!) My overall beaker rate soared from slightly over 800 beakers/turn to well over 1000 per turn. Here's a large overview shot of my territory:

Research was 806 beakers/turn before I hit enter, then went to 1034/turn afterwards. Wow. I'm still not sure quite what the post-Golden Age figure will be, but it should be rather impressive nonetheless. (I was making 426 beakers/turn exactly ten turns ago, right before the start of the Golden Age. The Renaissance era double Golden Age is so amazingly powerful.) I'm looking to use this short period before the discovery of Astronomy and oberservatories to crank out a few more settlers. I will definitely build at least two of them, the ones at Wish and Monsoon. The settler in the capital I'm less certain about; I might change that to a pair of 1t workers instead. I could really use the workers... Settlers will go to the two "X" markers indicated, both of which will make strong cities, and safely protected in the back lines. There are at least two more cities to plant in the northwest, where I have a full six workers hacking cities out of the jungle. Tremendously good land there, lots of food and other resources, but very labor intensive spots. I thought all this time that there was a land connection up there over to Team 3's Dave, only to discover last turn that peaks completely block the way. Huh. Safer over there than I thought. It's just Thoth up in that corner with me, and his team is really hurting for tech. I should be able to get the lion's spoils there.

Our team powered through Military Tradition in just three turns, with significant overflow research into the next tech. We can now build cuirassiers, and I actually finished my turn before Speaker so that he would get the auto-build upgrade on knights in production. We'll now proceed onto Astronomy, with my cities finished with their university builds and ready for observatories. We decided to get Gunpowder/Military Tradition before Astronomy so that we could surprise Team 3 with an attack over water with ships. That was the plan, anyway. However, Team 3 made the brilliant decision to go for Astronomy, and just discovered it for themselves before us! I'm not being the least bit sarcastic, that was an inspired research choice from them. They seized upon what was truly important, getting better naval tech quickly, and went for galleons even faster than we did. Now we must race to catch them, with our team just barely managing to squeeze out our own Astronomy research over 2t. (We just make it - Speaker couldn't go even 10% lower in research when I checked!)

With Gunpowder research also in hand, this means that Team 3 is likely pushing directly for Chemistry next. We should be able to follow them and be only slightly behind in the race for galleons and frigates. The key turns are going to be the next half-dozen or so turns; our team has to try and establish naval dominance as quickly as possible. We can't let them built up an unbeatable fleet at sea. Speaker is still sending about 9 knights/curiassiers over to me, and naval tech or no, it's going to be really tough for Dave to defend those island cities. I can load knights on the tile NW-NW of Sandstorm's Fury, and then hit Damme on the very next turn, directly from the boat or unload onto the beaches. (Damme had a single longbow inside this turn for defense.) It's just a matter of building the galleons, and fortunately my Heroic Epic city can knock them out every turn. I have no idea exactly what's going to happen, but it should be fun.

Seriously, I want to compliment Team 3's players again. WarriorKnight, Shoot the Moon, and Dave have been playing at a very high level throughout the game. They've made this a true competition, and even with our research lead, this is far from a done deal. I console myself with the knowledge that Team 3 had to give up a lot of economic and military power to beat us to Astronomy like they did. We are ahead Music, Theology, Constitution, Liberalism, Printing Press, and Military Tradition on their team. Cuirassiers should let us beat them in a straight-up fight, while Printing Press/Constitution give us a research edge. But those galleons are trouble, no doubt about it. We have to follow them on the tree now with all possible speed.

Team 2 followed up their Liberalism research with Divine Right research. At this point, they have either given up or are deliberately trolling us with their bizarre and ill-conceived research choices. I know Lewwyn, Luddite, and antisocialmunky, and they are better players than they are showing. Their lack of Feudalism/Guilds/Banking this late into the game is simply incomprehensible. I don't have much to say about Team 4, too far behind at this point to catch up. Team 3 though - they are giving us quite a game!

***** 18 February 2012 *****

Things are starting to move along now. Here's a few thoughts on what's coming up in the next few turns.

This is the chaotic mess that forms Speaker's northwest border. Still a lot of units from three different teams packed into this region. Speaker has been using our tech edge to pick off a number of Thoth units though; this turn, he saw a single longbow sitting on a jungle tile. That unit gets strength 9, which would normally be pretty good... but Speaker has those two super-promoted cuirassier Great Generals sitting around. White Mage Veigar and Captain Teemo both have reached the six promotion mark, and indeed it's nice to be Charismatic in situations like these! So that poor Thoth longbow was up against a Combat III cuirassier (strength 15.6) and it wasn't much of a fight. Captain Teemo can now take Combat IV promotion, and White Mage Veigar is almost up to Combat V. Could we potentially see the rare Combat VI promotion before this game is said and done? Those guys will be upgraded to cavalry soon, and we'll keep using them until we get a really poor dice roll in combat.

Speaker has established a lot of control in this region over the past half dozen turns. Lanewick pushed back the borders of Vijayanagara with those Artist specialists, and the new city of Lux's Laugh seized the last unoccupied territory. There is a new Thoth city with unexpanded borders on the white dot tile (I think - pretty certain that's how to interpret the borders over there), which we'll check out next turn. No idea if it's a potential target for razing. There's no direct road connection from The Alamo though, so hey, maybe.

The big action is going on over here in the sea to the west of me. Anyone who's been reading these posts has heard me go on ad nauseum about how Dave's island cities were not safe plants, and couldn't be defended under serious attack. If all goes as planned, we're about to see that in practice. Our team discovered Astronomy two turns ago, and that's been enough time to get four galleons in the water. Two from Heroic Epic city, one from Sandstorm Fury, and one from an upgraded galley. We thought it was worth it to spend the 80 gold in this particular situation, to make sure our whole army could get into the fighting. Speaker has sent over about nine knights, and I've got some of my own knights and even a handful of cuirassiers in the area. We can load up those four galleons next turn with something like ten knights and two cuirassiers, then attack Damme on Turn 159, launching straight from the boats if there's still only the single longbow on defense. We would probably lose one fight, win the second one, and then have the city in our hands.

Now the key issue here is making sure that Dave doesn't see the attack coming until it's too late to do anything about it. Next turn, our galleons will move onto some combination of those yellow dot tiles (exact one depends on what Dave does with his ships), any of which allows for hitting the island city on the following turn. What's critical here is making sure that Dave doesn't scout out those ships. He can't see them with his cultural borders alone, he has to move a ship out to see those tiles. This is where unit tactics come into play. I have my four caravels in a position where they can see into Damme and also put pressure on that lone Dave caravel to the north. If Dave keeps his ship in place, I'll kill that caravel next turn, almost certainly losing one caravel to kill his. I doubt he'll stay there though, since it's a sitting death sentence for that ship. The best scenario for me would be Dave moving the lone caravel back into his city. Then I could block the narrow two-tile passage East-East-East of Damme with my caravels, making it impossible to scout the galleons without killing my caravels. Alternately, Dave could move all of his ships onto the tile where the caravel is now; I would probably put up the same blockade in that case, although he could likely break it then by sacrificing some of his own ships. If he retreats back into his island city, he can't break a potential blocking of that narrow choke because his galley and trireme couldn't even reach those tiles to attack. I'm quite curious to see what Dave does here. All we need to do is deny vision for one turn, and then we should be able to pounce on his island cities before Dave can react properly.

Of course, Dave could have galleons of his own out there in the fog somewhere too! There's always that risk. But their team only just got Astronomy tech too, and Dave's cities on this body of water are pretty weakish in terms of production. I have been watching Damme each turn, and I would have seen a galleon if he had built one in there. Both Damme and Aboukir Bay are 90% water, so they are very low on production when not whipping. Vigo Bay has more production, but seems to be quite new - it has almost new infrastructure as yet. Probably not building ships there. Maybe in Dave's city of Verdun to the south, he could be building galleons? Maybe. But that's almost too far away to get into the battle, if I can't see anything over there right now. We shall see. I'm still slightly surprised that Dave didn't upgrade his galley over here into a galleon. I thought for sure that he would, if only to provide more military safety. It might be too late soon... It would be really awesome to catch those three ships in port, and destroy them without ever having to fight!

Unfortunately my Golden Age finally came to an end when I pressed Enter this turn. It was perfectly timed and catapulted my civ into a very strong position, but all good things must come to an end. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that my science rate didn't fall off very much at all. Looking at the pictures above, before and after ending turn, you can see that the tech rate dropped from 1096 beakers/turn to 920 beakers/turn. While that's still a sizable drop, I thought it would be a lot worse (I estimated something like 750 to 800 beakers - I was very happy to see how wrong I was!) Much of that is due to my insane capital, which will top 500 beakers/turn all by itself next turn. Wow. Most of my core cities are now at work adding observatories, which will go up over the next 6-10 turns and increase research power further. The real drop from the Golden Age ending wasn't so much in research, but in production, which tailed off dramatically. Going to have to go back to whipping again to complete some buildings, ah well. I am also starting to bleed gold out the wazoo, now just shy of losing 200 gold/turn at max tech rate. As embarassing as that is, we still want to keep me running at full velocity, since I have all science multiplier buildings and zero gold multiplier buildings. Speaker's tech rate is the thing that will suffer for this, as sunrise will be forced to spend more and more of his income keeping me infused with cash. Errr, sorry about that! It's for the good of the team and all! Just think of me as your AD carry getting tons of free farm.

We're actually going to complete a 2t Chemistry research trip to follow up on our 2t Astronomy grab. My water cities are preparing to get some frigates in the water starting next turn, which can blockade Dave's cities and bombard down their defenses. I'll be real curious to see if Team 3 is also pushing for Chemistry right now; they should get it this turn if that was their research goal. We'll see. If not, frigates should rule the seas against their galleons. Our double Golden Age has definitely tipped the scales here, allowing us to pursue economic techs like Priting Press and Constitution (which are helping us out a lot) while also keeping pace in pure military tech. We're actually ahead there as well, since we have Military Tradition and Team 3 needs to get Music before they can even research that. After Chemistry, we should be able to get Replaceable Parts in 3t and Rifling in 4t. Then build tons of cavalry, swap into Nationhood to draft some rifles, and go take some cities from teams who are nowhere close to those units.

Should be interesting, regardless of what happens.

***** 19 February 2012 *****

Everyone played quickly, and so we got in another turn today. Here's the current situation in the west:

All of Dave's ships had disappeared from view when I opened up the game. We weren't sure what exactly he was doing with them, since they weren't even inside the city of Damme. Now it's important to point out that Team 3 researched Chemistry tech on their turn, so it was possible that Dave was trying to bait my ships into some kind of a trap by upgrading some of those ships into frigates. (It actually would be possible for their team to discover Chemistry tech on ending Shoot the Moon's turn, then use money to upgrade a trireme into a frigate during Dave's turn. You can do this with sequential turns + teams.) We thought it was worthwhile to move out one of my caravels to see what was going on, and it turned out all of the ships had just moved backwards a couple of tiles. Huh, interesting. They probably picked this tile because it was the furthest that the isolated caravel from last turn could move onto. Dave probably thinks that I'm trying to kill his ships with my own caravel stack. I actually wouldn't take that fight - odds not good enough with the 10% defensive bonus. If I were to attack his little fleet there, I would likely lose both caravel vs caravel battles, then kill the trireme and galley. But Dave's two caravels would survive and promote, then kill my last two caravels. Not a good trade.

So now we had vision on Dave's ships, and also vision into his two island cities. Dave drafted a musketeer in Damme this turn, which will cost us more units attacking, but shouldn't be enough to change the overall course of events. At this point, we had the option of stacking all 4 caravels together on one tile. Alternately, I could put some of them on Damme's fish tile, which is what we ultimately chose to do. We were debating going 2 caravels/2 caravels to provide extra defensive protection for each small stack, before deciding that denying Dave that fish tile to prevent more drafting at Damme was more important. He shouldn't be expecting a huge attack next turn, but why take the risk? I will probably lose the one isolated caravel next turn (Dave can kill if it he wants to), and that's OK. Caravels are already obsolete as naval units. Frigates are going to dominate going forward, and I'll be building one per turn from my Heroic Epic city.

There are 9 knights and 2 cuirassiers on the four galleons stacked together in my territory. We made a minor micro error in moving the units onto the boats, which prevented a last knight from getting on board. Oh well, not a big deal. We can load a curiassier into that last slot next turn, and we won't need all 12 attacks at Damme to take the city. Dave cannot see the stack of galleons, nor can any naval unit of his move into position to see that stack (unless he has a unit on the fogged water tile due south of Damme). We should be good here. Next turn, move and attack Damme with units unloading right off the boat. We should probably lose two knights and then have the second unit following up win each battle. Then the turn after that, take Aboukir Bay if all goes correctly. I think I can keep these cities upon capture, but we'll see how things play out. I believe that Dave has five total cities on this body of water: the two island cities, the cities of Vigo Bay and Verdun to the south, and an unexplored city to the northwest. I know he has one there, even if I haven't scouted it yet, since his earlier ships had to come from somewhere. Ideally, we'll capture the two island cities and coastal blockade the other three cities into uselessness, forcing Dave to run huge garrisons in all of them to prevent capture.

In the top left corner of the screenshot, my research went up from 920 beakers/turn to 983 beakers/turn since yesterday. Most of that was due to the capital finishing an observatory:

Yep, that's 500 beakers/turn from the capital alone. Pretty astonishing what you can do with a dream start like this one if it's played correctly. This is pretty much what our team was envisioning from the very moment that we saw my starting position. Financial + Expansive + eight floodplains tiles = broken game. Probably the biggest single mistake that Team 3 made was not giving this starting position to their own Pacal of India player, Shoot the Moon. They gave it instead to Dave, and while he's done a great job of growing his civ over time, the lack of Financial can't really be made up. The great thing about this start is that Expansive is 100% the correct trait to pair with Financial, with the health boost having a giant effect over the course of the game to offset the penalty from those floodplains, and the Expansive worker bonus synergizing perfectly with the plains hill, irrigated wheat tile, and grassland iron. More health = more food, faster Fast Workers, more cottages worked earlier, and so on. The snowball rolls down the hill.

With all the beaker multiplier buildings in place, I'm going to fix the health problem here next. Aqueduct and grocer will grant +5 health and let Requiem max out for good. I can finally add two plains cottages on the remaining unused tiles, then any further growth will go onto (Representation) Scientist specialists. I'm not sure if I'll ever leave Bureaucracy civic in this game. If it goes long enough, then Free Speech will become better, but that will take a long time given all the beaker multipliers in this city. I also need to get National Epic in here for the extra Great Person production, although that's a bit lower in priority. Even with Bureaucracy bonus and all those Golden Ages, you still have to pick and choose what to build.

Here's a picture from my Excel chart showing the techs researched by each team. The pace demonstrates our research edge, as well as the non-competitiveness of Teams 2 and 4. I estimated the beaker per turn rate of each team at the bottom, which should be roughly accurate based on how long it took them to pick up their recent techs, and yes I know our figure is inflated by Golden Age beakers! We've been playing catchup with Team 3 for a little while now, following them to Gunpowder, Astronomy, and Chemistry techs and picking up some bonus beakers all the while. But because we have key economic techs like Printing Press and Constitution, we've been able to knock out these same techs at a much faster rate, doing Astronomy/Chemistry in literally half the time. We're also far ahead in the race to rifles and cavalry; Team 3 still needs five techs to get cavs, while we need two. And we research somewhere between 30-50% faster than they do. In other words, our edge should only expand over time, not diminish.

Because we have that advantage, Speaker suggested that we research the otherwise-usless Economics tech for the free Great Merchant. Paired with a Great Scientist that Speaker produced out of the Great Library, this will give me another 6t Golden Age, and since Economics only costs us about 1.5 turns worth of beakers, it seems more than worth it. We can even swap off to another tech if someone were to discover it before us. Don't think that will happen though, as Team 3 is the only one who can even research the tech, and they surely have more important targets to chase. So I will probably be in a third Golden Age relatively soon. No, it's not fair to the other teams. Can you imagine if we hadn't banned the Mausoleum, how game-breakingly powerful all that would be? I honestly think that Mausoleum needs to be banned for future MP games, just because the Mausoleum triple Golden Age with Taj Mahal is effectively a game over maneuver. Building two wonders should not decide the game. With 6t Golden Ages and not 9t ones, at least the other teams have a chance here. Well, somewhat of a chance anyway... I will probably be able to crack 1200 beakers/turn in this next Golden Age...

Team 3 is very heavily whipping and drafting right now. They have a LOT of military power. I think they are fighting with Team 2, judging by the whips that Team 2 is doing, but I can't say for certain. Perhaps they are planning an attack on us as well. Their window to attack us will close in about 6-7 turns, at which point we'll have Nationhood civic + Rifling tech and be effectively impervious to any move with Renaissance units. Next turn should be fun regardless, I'll post on what happens at those island cities.

***** 20 February 2012 *****

We got the city:

Dave may have sensed that something was going on, as there was an extra musketeer inside the city of Damme, two musketeers and one longbow total. However, Dave made a mistake by moving all of his ships into the city as well, so his two caravels, trireme, and galley were all sitting in port in a position where they were completely out of the fight. After moving up the galleons, we started out by checking the attack odds. Speaker couldn't get better than 10% on his knights, while my cuirassier got double that at 20%. We thought that was our best option to damage Dave's units into the critical range, and then got lucky when my cuirassier actually won the first battle! That was the absolute best time to get a low-odds victory, saving one of my best units (and promoting it to 10 XP in the process for a third promotion) and taking out the strongest defender. From there, the battle went according to plan, with one knight dying to take each remaining unit into the critical range, and then another knight killing the weakened unit. In total, we lost 2 knights to kill 2 musketeers, 1 longbow, 2 caravels, 1 trireme, and 1 galley. An excellent trade for us, thanks in part to the one lucky combat result. But we would have likely lost only one more unit if we hadn't gotten lucky, so it didn't make *THAT* much of a difference.

We kept Damme and renamed it to Teleport Gank, a League of Legends play where a champion teleports behind the enemy and kills them from an unexpected position. It seemed like a fitting name. These island cities are actually pretty valuable, because every city in our combined teams can form an "overseas trade route" to them for double the usual commerce. Team 3 may have had this in mind when they founded them, which is actually a rather big deal. (I really hate this feature in Beyond the Sword, as it's quite dumb. A tiny one tile island city is worth double every normal city in your empire from a trade perspective? Really?) Still, those are the rules, and it makes holding these cities worthwhile. I'm going to ferry over some more defenders shortly, after this initial attack runs its course. We also feel confident to hold these cities because we expect to hold naval dominance in this body of water going forward. I can build a frigate every turn from my Heroic Epic city, and another frigate every 2 turns from my other well developed coastal city. If we can clear the waters and blockade all of Dave's cities, it will be tough for him to attack these spots.

Attention now turns to Aboukir Bay and Vigo Bay. The island city is doomed; there will definitely be at least one musket in there next turn from the draft, and possibly two muskets if Dave can also whip one. I'm not sure if he'll have enough population to do both. Even with two muskets, the city is not going to stand against 9 attackers. Depending on the number of units in there, we may or may not be able to make a play on Vigo Bay. It's totally empty this turn (!!!), and not large enough to draft right now. We can't reach the city itself next turn, but we could get close enough to land our Mounted units so that they don't attack with the amphibious penalty. If we can land 6-7 knights, that might be enough to try an attack. Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how many units Dave can scramble up over here. My guess is that we will not get the city, but we can pillage/blockade it into virtual irrelevance.

There are two real unknowns here: does Dave have any ships down in the south by Verdun? And does he have any ships in the unexplored nothwest? There's at least one city up there, possibly two. I have my caravels heading out to scout those areas right now. I need to know if there are frigates incoming - we can't afford to have those galleons sunk with the knights on board. Galleons are safe for this turn, as there's no tiles possible where we can be attacked. Losing those ships in Damme was a major blow, as I feel like Dave would have upgraded at least one of them to a frigate if they had survived. Good lesson here: not a good idea to hide ships in port sometimes, since they all die if the city falls. Dave was doing a good job otherwise, keeping his units grouped together to make them stronger at sea. We just made sure to deny vision on this attack, and it ended up blindsiding him before he could react.

***** 22 February 2012 *****

It took an extra day, but we did have the chance to play our turn. I failed to realize something important earlier: Dave revolted *OUT* of Nationhood civic on the turn before we attacked him! Wretched timing for him, which means that he couldn't swap back into the civic despite being Spiritual. That was a real stroke of luck on our side, making this easier in attacking. Anyway, somehow Dave added an archer in addition to the longbow we could see previously in Aboukir Bay. [Side question: how did he get an archer in there?! He can't build archers because they researched Feudalism tech. And if it was an older unit, how did it get in there without a ship to transport it? Did Dave move it over on a galley, and then delete the galley? I am confused here.]

So our 9 knights/cuirassiers were facing off against a longbow and an archer, in a city with 40% defensive bonus because the culture popped on the intervening turn. The first knight attacked at 20% odds, and predictably died, but without dealing even one point in damage! Ugh, worst result possible. That meant another knight went in at the same 20% odds... and then won! Crazy stuff, heh. We got the expected result (first knight dies, second knight kills longbow) but in a completely unexpected way. Then the next knight attacked and died at 85% odds to the archer. Well, that made up for winning the earlier 20% combat result at the first island city. Overall, we had very average combat luck in these battles, with the expected results more or less playing out. Killing the damaged archer from there was trivial, and we captured Aboukir Bay:

Speaker would rename this city "Map Control", in another League of Legends term that made sense in this context. He'll gift them over to me when they come out of resistance, and I expect the maintenance costs to be substantial. Worth it for the "overseas" trade routes though.

We have basically no chance to take Vigo Bay. There's a musketeer in there right now, and four more units pouring in as reinforcements next turn, plus whatever Dave whips. There should be at a minimum 4 musketeers and 2 pikes in there next turn, and unfortunately that's just not going to happen with the units we have on hand. This is one situation where Dave playing as France helps him out quite a bit - I doubt all those units could have reached the city if they were muskets and not musketeers. It's also a shame we couldn't circumnavigate the map, as then our galleons would have 5 moves and we would have razed Vigo Bay this turn. One tile short, alas. But we could not have moved the galleons up a tile further when we were staging the attack, or Dave would have seen them incoming and surely whipped/drafted/not revolted out of Nationhood to protect his island cities. Snapping up the two of them was our goal, and we achieved it. Now the focus shifts from galleons to frigates, as we turn to pillaging/coastal blockading the cities that we can't outright capture by force. Even if we can't take the three remaining Dave cities on this body of water, we can force him to run large garrisons in each and deny them the use of sea tiles through that silly blockade feature. Plus Dave will have to whip/draft his cities, while we continue building and teching upwards. As long as we control the waters, the two island cities should be quite safe from attack, and I'm ferrying over some longbows and muskets as we speak for further protection.

The Demographics continue to look better and better for my civ. I have a commanding lead in GNP, and I will shortly take the lead in Food and Population as well. Shoot the Moon (the closest GNP rival) is actually in a Golden Age at the moment, and I am still far, far ahead despite not being in a Golden Age. Also, I will be in a Golden Age myself next turn, with our team having discovered Economics tech this turn. Will GNP crack 1500 in the Golden Age? We shall see! The one place where I am weak is in the Power stat. And yet.... where can Team 3 really attack me? Speaker and I have been thinking about this a lot, pretending that we were on the other teams and thinking how best to attack my civ. We can't see any realistic way that they could kill me at the moment. At worst, they could maybe take a city, but I have so much population available for whipping and drafting, plus we will have rifles in a mere 4 more turns. I genuinely don't see how they could do it. We have control of the seas, we have vision on all the entrance routes, and most of Team 3's forces appear to be attacking Team 2 anyway. Krill showed everyone decisively in the earlier PBEM Always War game that the key to victory is to build just enough military to be safe, and then go full tech to outrace everyone else economically. That's what I'm doing here. If I see something threatening incoming, I'll build more units. Until then? Tech, tech, tech.

I've now crested the 1000 beaker/turn mark again, and would shortly pass the high water mark of the previous Golden Age - if I wasn't starting another Golden Age next turn, that is. I should be able to top 1250 beakers with the Golden Age boost, and with the standard 20% beaker multiplier for normal research, that would be an effective 1500 beakers/turn rate. Add in the research from Speaker and the trickle of Representation/Mercantilism beakers from sunrise, and our team's total effective research rate will be approaching 2000 beakers/turn. There's just not much the other teams can do about that. No one else is even remotely close to rifles/cavs (Team 3 is closest at 5 techs away) and we will have them in 4 turns. By the time they get Rifling tech, we will have Assembly Line and be churning out factories/infantry. I don't want to sound too overconfident, but I just don't see how another team can win at this point. Our snowball has too much momentum. We will clean up every "first to" bonus on the tech tree, and will soon be able to field armies that are too technologically advanced for the other teams to stop, especially Teams 2/4. When we start using the combination of rifles/cavs/cannons, we can take any city we want. Renaissance units cannot stop those forces.

I was curious about this subject, so I went ahead and dumped my beaker output over the last 25 turns into Excel and graphed the result. The graph shows a clear trend upwards, with research increasing at a relatively steady rate. The biggest jump on there was actually not the Golden Age but the completion of Oxford University, which was worth almost 200 beakers all by itself. This is a visual indicator of how important those national wonders can be! Anyway, getting a bit far afield here, but I thought it was worth including in my post. Hope it was interesting.

***** 24 February 2012 *****

As predicted last turn, we're not going to be able to attack Dave at Vigo Bay. However, a new avenue of attack may have opened up. Here's the tactical situation map in the western seas:

Our units are in black text, their units in red. The first thing that I did at the start of my turn was move out my caravel spotters for vision. Always assess the situation first with scouting units if you have them. This was especially important down in the south by Verdun, as we wanted to know if there were any frigates down there. We have vision into the city, and it appears safe. (Dave could have a frigate or two stashed south of the city if he was really acting clever, but that does seem a bit unlikely.) There were 3 musketeers, 2 pikes, 1 longbow, and another pike moving into Vigo Bay from what we could see. We only had 8 units available to attack, and while it was technically possible to capture Vigo if we were lucky in our combat roles, the most likely outcome was losing all our units to kill 4-5 of Dave's units. He'd reinforce the city again on his turn, and it was unlikely we would be able to raze the location. Not really worth it - Vigo Bay is a relatively new city, with little infrastructure right now. If we can deny the water tiles, and it has just the sheep + horses, it's not that great of a spot.

As a result, we pillaged the hillside mine (17 gold, woot!) and loaded our knights and cuirassiers back onto the boats. We kept them in place, on the tile next to Vigo, and instituted a coastal blockade of the surrounding tiles. Dave is probably thinking, "Well that really sucked, but I've weathered the storm now. They're just going to blockade and pillage me, since they know they can't capture any more cities." And indeed, Vigo has been saved. We won't be attacking there any more at this point in time.

But that doesn't mean we can't strike elsewhere! If this works the way we hope, it's going to be the mother of all rope-a-dope manuevers. At the start of the turn, I moved my scouting caravel in the north as well as the one in the south, which is just off screen of this picture. That revealed what was inside the northern city of Trafalfar: one pike and one frigate. As soon as I moved the caravel forward to scout, it could no longer escape the range of the frigate, so I had the caravel dash up to the top of the screen. I'm hoping to draw Dave's frigate out and have him kill my caravel, which will neatly take his only significant naval unit completely out of the picture. So again... there's only one military unit inside Trafalgar! And we can move all of our knights from their current tile onto the hill tile southeast of Trafalgar next turn. That's 8 highly promoted, elite Mounted units in position to land and then attack. And Trafalgar is one of Dave's best cities: he has his Heroic Epic in there, plus Angkor Wat (!!!) Will he see this move coming and shift defenders? That's the all-important question. If he waits until we land, it will almost certainly be too late to react at that point. Even better, we've just drawn Dave's reserve units down to Vigo Bay, roping them into defending a strategically unimportant location. There's a very real chance that that move has opened the path to one of his best cities. We shall see next turn!

Elsewhere, I have four frigates rolling out into the ocean as we speak. I'll probably build a few more, and then swap over to cavs or rifles when we discover Rifling tech. The idea is to have total control of the waters, and that means lots and lots of frigates. Some defenders are also going to protect the island cities, which shouldn't really be under threat of attack from Dave with our control of the waters... but better safe than sorry.

I popped my third Golden Age and research went up to 1300 beakers/turn. It's pretty disgusting, yes. We nearly had enough beakers to get Replaceable Parts in 1t with overflow, which would have been rather amusing. Instead, we'll now get it next turn and have massive overflow into Rifling tech. We should be able to do Replaceable Parts (2t), Rifling (2t), Corporation (1t) and then have our choice of Steel or Steam Power after that. Team 3 has now gone three turns without discovering anything, and will likely get another tech very soon. My best guess is that we'll see Printing Press next from them, although they could do an oddball play like Military Science (grenadiers, ship of the line) or Steel (cannons) instead. Either one of those cases would be great for us: we'd just follow them on the tree again and get cheaper research. Plus those techs would only put Team 3 further away from rifles/cavs. We'll see, my guess is still for Printing Press.

Team 3 has captured two cities from Team 2 over the last two turns. There's a ton of whipping/drafting going on from both sides, which is perfect for us. We are not whipping/drafting, nor are we losing cities, and therefore we're only getting further ahead. I genuinely think we'll get a concession sometime soon from the other teams. If not, that's fine too - we're having fun, and we can ride this thing out as long as need be. No one's conquering us, and we could always turtle to a space win if need be.

***** 28 February 2012 *****

Two turns passed since I last updated here. I'm pretty sure that Dave did not see our attack on Trafalgar coming, since he only had 1 pike and 1 musketeer inside the city when we landed. Could be wrong, but I feel like he would have had more units in there if he was anticipating the attack. However, this is another situation where playing as France helped out Dave quite a bit. Since he has the musketeer unique unit replacement for muskets, any city within 6 tiles could send their musketeer defenders over to protect Trafalgar. After building another pike inside Trafalgar on his turn, Dave ended up with 3 musketeers, 2 pikes, and 1 knight defending the city. Trafalgar also expanded its borders from 40% culture to 60% culture on the interturn, which was either amazing micromanagement or a nice break of luck. In any case, 8 attackers to break 6 defenders was not a viable proposition, so we loaded the units back onto the boats and headed out, making sure to pillage the pigs and iron tiles on the way.

That takes us to this situation over in the west:

Dave's one frigate did kill my caravel last turn. Otherwise there have been no losses on either side at sea. I hope to kill Dave's frigate very soon if he keeps it out in the water; I'd rather trade one frigate for one frigate while I have a large edge, and avoid Dave building up a comparable stack of ships. The remaining knights and cuirassiers are hanging out on three galleons in the seas around Map Control, safe from attack from any of Dave's ships. Even if he builds more frigates in Trafalgar or Vigo Bay on the interturn, they wouldn't be able to move until next turn. All of my galleons are coastal blockading Dave's stuff to death, which is unbelievably cheezy but also effective. You may be able to see the faint pink outline of the blockaded tiles, it's virtually everything in that sea to the west. We have pretty much accomplished our goal here, having taken out the two island cities and forced Dave to invest huge defensive garrisons in all of his remaining coastal cities. Look at the huge stacks we're tying down in Trafalgar, Vigo, and Verdun: 21 units stuck over here on defense in total. While it would have been nice to take Vigo or Trafalgar, this isn't a terrible result either.

I have six frigates produced in this body of water now, which hopefully will be able to maintain this blockade indefinitely. Or at least for a while until we can push on to Combustion, anyway. My other galleon has ferried some defenders over to the island cities, and I plan to add a rifle at each city as well once we get Rifling tech shortly. Since we'd be able to upgrade the muskets/longbows to rifles in a pinch as needed, those cities should be pretty impregnable. Team 3 still can't attack with units better than knights, which won't exactly do well when attacking at amphibious penalty against rifles. (I do wonder if they will prioritize Military Science for grenadiers to counter rifles? We shall see.)

Teleport Gank came out of resistance this turn, and I was able to force a border expansion upon ending turn with the Build Culture option (force Citizen specialists to get to the 5 culture needed, heh). This put the yellow X tile within my borders. I'm sending 3 workers up there to place a fort on that tile, which will allow our galleons and frigates to sail into the northern sea and go after more Dave cities up there. If we're lucky, we can catch him unaware and raze something else. He shouldn't expect us to have ships on that body of water, after all. Should be fun to see what happens.

If we can't take a city in the west, what to do? Attack Team 3 again in another location:

This is on the border between sunrise and WarriorKnight. We hate how we were forced to give up so much of this contested land in the early game, as we did not think it was wise to settle right up against the borders of Aggressive Rome. In particular, it would be nice to clear some of the cities in the border area to relieve the pressure on sunrise's cities (which are vulnerable to a naval strike against them in the same fashion that we've been doing elsewhere). As a result, Speaker designed this attack to strike at Karakorum W. We built ships in sunrise's Heroic Epic capital, and then transferred them over to this body of water through use of forts. This allowed us to stick a bunch of catapults on galleons and then drop them off next to the city, therefore getting around the great weakness of siege units, their slow movement speed. Meanwhile, Speaker gathered up a ton of cuirassiers and moved them into position as well.

So here we are now, using the large screenshot to show details. Our frigates can bombard down the defenses of the city on their own, leaving the 7 catapults for collateral damage as needed. There are 11 cuirassiers and 5 knights in total available to attack, nearly all of them triple promoted thanks to Speaker's Charismatic + Ger combination. With collateral damage in play, this should be a fairly easy win for us. Of course, it depends on what Team 3 decides to do on their turn. They have potential reinforcements in two different places, three tiles away in Karakorum X and three tiles to the southwest in a zone defensive scheme. (Excellent positioning there by WarriorKnight, incidentally; those knights down there can reinforce several different cities depending on where the attack comes. Nice job.) WarriorKnight can't pull too many units from his other city, because we have a galleon and 3 galleys on the water up there in the north, which could potentially attack off the boats. Now two of those three galleys are totally empty, but he doesn't know that!

It mostly comes down to how many units Team 3 has in the fog that we can't see here. If they have some huge stack of catapults and more knights, then we could possibly be in trouble. However even in that situation, our cuirassiers should get huge odds on any knight attacks, since they are mostly promoted Combat 2/Formation. If WarriorKnight has Combat 2 knights himself, we would be fighting at strength 17.4 against strength 12. He needs a lot of catapults to flip those odds. They only discovered Steel two turns ago, so we shouldn't be seeing many cannons. And upgrading cats to cannons on this turn wouldn't be effective, since they wouldn't be able to attack after upgrading. I think the best option is actually for Team 3 to retreat and give up this city without losing units, if there's no huge surprise for us in the fog. I'm genuinely curious to see what they do. If we can get them to keep drafting and whipping heavily, our economic edge will only increase.

Also note the Roman workers contructing a fort in the middle of the desert. WarriorKnight is clearly planning some kind of naval attack against sunrise. This is why we need to maintain control of the sea, and block any such strike before it can occur. We don't want him landing in our back lines! The good news here is that we get Rifling next turn. Sunrise will flip over to Nationhood civic, and drafted rifles should suffice to stop any attack with muskets/knights. The lesson, as always, is that tech is king in Civ4.

Just a few words on research here. We researched Replaceable Parts in 2t, and we nearly had enough beaker overflow to get Rifling in 1t. We came up just 300 beakers short there. As a result, we'll do a 2t Rifling research as well, and follow it up with 1t Corporation research, using tons of overflow beakers. Corporation is worthwhile to pick up because of our island cities, as it will add a 2 commerce trade route in every single city across all three of our civs. That's quite a lot of trade route income. It also will let sunrise build Wall Street in his capital, if we can ever get him to 8 banks stock exchanges, and the tech is a prerequisite for Assembly Line anyway. Beyond that, the tech route looks pretty clear right now: follow Team 3 to Steel for cannons, drydocks, and Iron Works. Then straight on to Steam Power (levees will be awesomely good for Speaker and me) and Assembly Line. We can probably get to Assembly Line in about 10-12 turns of research. I expect that we'll have factories and infantry about the same time that Team 3 reaches rifles and cavs. At that point the game should be mostly academic: ahead close to a full era of technology, with factories and power plants going up everywhere. We should be able to outproduce everyone and create gigantic armies of technologically superior units that our rivals can't match.

I'm enjoying this game quite a bit, so I hope it goes on as long as possible. Perhaps there are still some surprises left before it comes to an end. I have to be honest though: I don't see any realistic way that another team can defeat us at this point. Too much tech. At best they can take an outlying city or two, and that's not enough to change the outcome of the game.