For the third game, we were back down to the cozy confines of six AI leaders. The random draw produced an aggressive mix of savage warriors and religious fanatics in a wide open group stage match.
Alexander is among the most warlike of the AI leaders in Civ4. He has Aggressive and Philosophical traits, an odd pairing that doesn't lend itself to much synergy. As a Greek leader, he brings the Phalanx and Odeon, with the unique unit axe that doesn't die to chariots being the stronger of the pair by far. Alexander the AI has military and growth flavors, with a heavy emphasis on training units (8/10). He also has a very high aggression rating at 8.6 out of 10, putting him amongst the most militaristic leaders we've seen thus far. Alexander is likely to go to war early and often. Whether that will be a successful strategy is hard to say.
Boudica is one of the rare female leaders. Did you know that only 6 of the 52 leaders in Civ4 are women? It's not very inspiring, we definitely could have done a better job here. (The original Civ4 was notably better, with 5 out of 26 female leaders, but Boudica is literally the only woman included in either expansion, 1 out of the 26 leaders added. Bit of a sausage fest.) Anyway, Boudica has the game's most offensively oriented trait pairing with Aggressive and Charismatic traits. I hope the AI Boudica uses them better than poor Spanish Apolyton did in the Intersite Game. Boudica also brings along the Gallic Warrior and Dun from her Celtic civ. Boudica AI has military and growth flavors, with an aggression rating of 8.8 out of 10. She's very similar to Alexander AI in nearly every way, with slightly less focus on building units and wonders. If the two of them share a religion, it could be a match made in heaven.
One of the other scarce female leaders, Isabella is infamous for being one of the game's most fanatical religious zealots. Isabella has a solid pairing of Spiritual and Expansive traits, and brings the Conquistador and Citadel for unique items. She's better known for starting with Mysticism tech by virtue of playing as Spain, however. Isabella will likely grab a religion of her choice at the start of the game and then defend it to the death against all comers. Unlike nearly every other AI, Isabella only has one flavor: RELIGION. She is obsessed with the true faith, and hates all those who fail to convert. Isabella also has the highest possible rating for "demand that you convert to her religion" (10/10), and her favorite civic is Theocracy. She's one of the easiest AIs to understand, the crusader obsessed with religion above everything else.
Joao has the most expansion-focused trait pairing in the game, with Expansive and Imperialistic traits. This has made him a desirable pick in some of our Multiplayer games when the goal is to spread out across the map like the plague. I'm uncertain if Joao the AI will be able to do the same thing, this will largely determine his success or failure. Joao's Portuguese civ brings along the Carrack and Feitoria, water-based unique tools that have limited success on a Pangaea map. Joao AI gets science and military flavors, along with average numbers for virtually everything across the board. He has a 4, 5, or 6 out of 10 in almost every category, with the one exception that he likes to make a lot of tribute and religious demands in diplomacy. Joao is pretty much your average AI, rather bland in how he's set up. Not too much going on here.
Unlike the last leader, Louis has a very distinct AI personality. He brings Creative and Industrious traits, along with the Musketeer and the Salon from the excellent French civilization. Louis is well known in the Civ4 community for being obsessed with wonders, as he has a 10/10 rating in that category. His AI flavors are culture and military, with more of a lean towards the former. Despite his wonder-whoring ways, Louis can be quite formidable in military endeavors as well, since he has a solid unit emphasis rating and above average aggression (6.3 out of 10). Among this group of generally weak leaders, he's probably the tentative favorite if he can avoid getting dogpiled and rolled over. Expect to see Louis clean up most of the wonders.
Qin was one of the mightiest leaders in the original version of Civ4, back when he paired Financial and Industrious traits with the Chinese civilization. Sadly the expansions were not kind to him, as Qin was changed to the vastly inferior Protective and Industrious pairing instead. Swapping the best trait in the game for the worst, ouch. Qin does still have the Chu Ko Nu and the Pavillion unique items from the Chinese civ, but loses out on a lot of China's power due to the free Deity starting techs. (China is the only civ in the game to start with Agriculture and Mining techs, widely considered the best pairing. On Deity, all of the AIs start with Agriculture, The Wheel, Hunting, and Archery techs.) Qin the AI has production and growth flavors, along with an emphasis on building wonders (6/10) if not nearly so much as Louis. He's pretty average across the board otherwise, with a modest aggression rating of 3.9 out of 10. Qin is another AI without much in the way of a defining feature.
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Frankly speaking, this is a fairly unimpressive group. These are mediocre to weak leaders paired with mostly underpowered civs. In a way though, that helps to create some of its own drama. This game is wide open, with no clear favorites. Anything could happen, and two of these leaders are guaranteed to move on to the next round. It's like that one World Cup group that somehow manages to have all weak teams in it, right next to the Group of Death with far superior talent. With a lot of militaristic leaders, this could well be our first game to end by Domination. How's this one going to play out?
The AIs put their starting settlers down quickly, as they always do on Deity. Most of them correctly expanded into the center of the map, except for Boudica who chose a truly terrible jungle location for her second city on the northern coast. The real story of these early turns was the close race between Isabella and Boudica for Meditation tech and Buddhism, which was taken by Isabella by a single turn in a photo finish. The religion of course popped up in her second city of Barcelona, right on the border with the Greeks. In past games this had been a recipe for border conflict, and it looked very likely to be again. Isabella went on to Priesthood tech next (remember, religious flavor AI - basically the AI version of the Templars team) while most everyone else researched Animal Husbandry.
As far as capitals went, Qin had the dreaded floodplains + plains cow starting position. His workers farmed the floodplains immediately though, so hopefully he'd be able to survive this and get off to a good start. Louis also had only a plains cow for food, but he had double marble resources, and his AI programming was probably salivating at the thought of all the wonders he'd build with them. All of the other capitals were stronger, especially Alexander and his dream location with pigs + double crabs + iron + marble. He'd be one to watch for sure.
Seriously, check out this awesome land that Alexander had about his capital. If he put this to good use, he'd be well positioned to become one of the game leaders. Unfortunately for him, Isabella's holy city to the south had swallowed up much of the territory down there. A lot was going to depend on whether Alexander converted to Buddhism, or if he would become part of a rival faith. The AIs all ignored religion for a while after Buddhism appeared, but Boudica was finally swayed to go after Hinduism, and founded it in her terrible jungle city on Turn 30. She was doing pretty well given the lack of Mining or Bronze Working techs to cut down all of the forest/jungle tiles around her starting position.
Louis built the first wonder of the game in the form of the Great Wall, and this may even have been useful given the number of barbarians running around. Still, the early game leader was unquestionably Isabella, whose central position on the map appeared to be allowing her to claim a larger share of the available land. So far her religion had failed to spread, and no one nearby had founded a competing religion. If that continued to be the case, her religious fanaticism might be held in check. There was more competition for Stonehenge, as Joao completed it a single turn before Qin. That one would have helped Qin a lot, given his own position with rivals on several sides, but it was not to be. Joao was already getting boxed in by China, and some kind of conflict between them seemed likely.
The southeast corner of the map was one place where land was still readily available, mostly because Louis was sitting on his behind and not making much of an effort. He was still on three cities when most everyone else had five down. Louis even had a settler just waiting in Orleans along with 3 archers and 4 chariots. Come on man, how many defenders do you need? Don't build the Great Lighthouse, get some cities planted before it's too late! Boudica and Isabella were the big winners here, both of them settling much of that vacated territory on either side of the French dilettante.
Diplomatically, Hinduism spread from Boudica to neighboring Louis, and even more importantly spread to Alexander's capital in the far north. This immediately caused Buddhist Isabella to become the worst enemy of Alexander. When I saw him queuing up swords and phalanxes in his cities, I figured it was only a matter of time until they went to war...
While this was going on, Isabella built the Oracle and took Monarchy tech with it. This might actually be more helpful than the standard Metal Casting that the AI normally takes. They certainly have no shortage of units running around to benefit from Hereditary Rule civic. Isabella also founded Judaism shortly thereafter, burying another world religion. This keeps happening in game after game; the zealous AIs rush out to found the initial religions, and then they continue to found the later ones as well, since they have such a focus on anything with the religious flag. I keep waiting to see something other than Buddhism and Hinduism come into play, and in three games we've seen no such thing. Will we ever get a Jewish or Confucian empire, much less a Christian or Islamic one?
Louis would go on to build the Great Lighthouse, and Qin built the Pyramids. He did use it to go into Representation, which is a powerful choice for the AI given how many specialists they always seem to be running. Isabella was just dominating in score though, way out in front while everyone else remained bunched together in a pack. This was extremely surprising, to say the least. Isabella AI is infamous for self-destructing through religious fanaticism. Was this one game where she was actually going to pull it off?
With 75 turns passed, the game remained oddly peaceful. Isabella had no religious allies at all, yet still somehow had an iron grip on the top position, and was leading many of the Demographics categories as well. Alexander was in first place in power, building up an army for some time now, despite his last place ranking in score. Unfortunately for him, Isabella was second in power, and with her religious cultural defenses, her cities were all well protected. There wasn't a good target for Alexander to attack. Most everyone in the game was "Annoyed" with the Buddhist queen, and she with them, but so far everyone was too intimidated to pick a fight with the Spanish
And as soon as I type that, Alexander declared war the next turn. Heh. Should have seen that coming. He really had no option, the pressure for Alexander to attack someone had to be enormous. With religious hatred poisoning the air, Isabella was always going to be the recipient of Greek aggression. Of course, the problems hadn't changed from the last paragraph I wrote. Where was Alexander going to be able to launch a successful attack? He had lots of double promoted units, true, but I still didn't see much of an opportunity. Maybe if he could pull in some allies, he'd need some help to make this work.
Alexander sent some sizable armies after Seville and Barcelona, only to achieve disaster at both cities. Seville was on a hill to boost its cultural defenses, and Barcelona was the Buddhist holy city with 60% culture bonus. In both cases, he lost most of his units and then limped back home to lick his wounds with a small remnant. Isabella's power surged past Alexander on the charts, and it looked like she was getting ready to counter attack into Greece. At least until this happened:
Louis decided he wanted to enter the war from the other side of Spanish territory. This was a godsend for Alexander, who had been getting whipped rather badly. It was also strange from a diplomatic perspective, as both Alexander and Louis had converted to Buddhism during the past few turns. Weird. They probably had been planning war before the religious swap, the same way that the AI can plot war at "Pleased" relations and then declare war later at "Friendly" in some cases. Unlike Alexander, Louis picked a much better target to attack, and easily captured Cordoba. After that, the going would get much harder. However, Louis was in the process of researching Construction at an early date, so perhaps he'd bring in some catapults and gain success that way. Actually a lot of AIs were going after the Construction train, much much earlier than in the previous game. That would make the world a significantly more dangerous place when they finished their research.
Alexander signed peace with Isabella shortly after Louis entered the war. I expected that he'd build units for 10 turns and then come back for another round. While this war was going on, Qin took the opportunity to build the Mausoleum and the Hanging Gardens. He even had a Great Engineer from the Pyramids to play around with, and chose to use it as a super specialist instead. But the main focus was still the conflict in the middle of the map, where Isabella met the French stack in a major battle and decimated it. She was now researching Construction herself, and getting ready to launch her own offensive. The French city of Rheims went down first, Cordoba was recaptured back from Louis, and there were a lot of Spanish units still advancing forward. This was turning into another Peninsular War, with the French invading Spain and suddenly realizing that they'd bit off more than they could chew.
Oh, this was not what Louis needed. Not at all. Seeing blood in the water, Boudica started her own war against the weakened French forces. Now it was Louis being assaulted from both sides by the ferocious female duo of Isabella and Boudica. Lyons was poorly defended, only five units inside and two of them not getting any defensive bonus from the culture, and it fell immediately to triple promoted Gallic Warriors. That left Louis with four widely scattered cities remaining. Isabella already had Construction tech, and Boudica was researching it. I did not have a good feeling about the French at this point.
Joao also bizarrely declared war on Alexander at this point. I couldn't see anything resulting from that war though, separated as they were by Qin's territory. I kept an eye on it, but didn't expect to see much.
Barely a dozen turns since Louis had started his war against Isabella, and he was on the verge of exiting the game. Isabella and Boudica were dicing him up like raw vegetables, even without much in the way of catapult support for their efforts. Isabella had taken Rheims and Orleans, while Boudica claimed Lyons and a very nice former barb city in the deep south. It was going to be critically important to see who would take the final two cities. If Isabella secured them, she might become an unbeatable runaway. If Boudica picked them up instead, we'd have a real showdown between the two ladies for first place.
Isabella remained incredibly unpopular, for all of her success thus far. It seemed as though she was the "worst enemy" of nearly everyone else in the game. No one else was practicing Buddhism, and that made Isabella contemptuous of the filthy heathens daring to share the same world with her people. Quite a tangled mess of wars out there. Oh wait, Qin was at war with Isabella too? Yep, he declared as well at the start of Turn 113. I didn't expect him to make much progress since Isabella had just finished Feudalism and added longbows to her city defenses. That said, this move might draw Spanish attention away from the lingering corpse of Louis, and allow Boudica to clean up more of the spoils. It was only a matter of time before the two ladies fought one another, and they were clearly jockeying for position in the dying embers of France.
As it turned out, Qin's entrance into the war was indeed a godsend for Boudica. Qin failed to achieve anything on the offensive, but he did draw Isabella's rage, and she shifted units away from the French front to go after the Chinese. This allowed Boudica to take Tours and then close in on Paris. Finally, on Turn 124, the curtain fell on Louis:
This war had been a massive success for Boudica. She gained four French cities, including the capital, and effectively jumped up into co-leader position alongside Isabella. Boudica picked up the Great Wall inside Paris, while Isabella was more fortunate to take the Great Lighthouse as one of her prizes from Louis. However, Boudica had the good fortune of possessing a secure flank in the southeast corner of the map, while Isabella remained in the central position with enemies on all sides, and clinging to the Buddhist faith that was universally detested abroad. Boudica had even passed Isabella in power, although she lagged behind in tech for the moment. Between the two of these women, I certainly would have preferred Boudica's position at this stage of the game.
The overview map had changed significantly in the last 50 turns. Isabella and Boudica had grown strong through the destruction of Louis, and now stood heads and shoulders above everyone else. Qin had to be regretting his rash declaration of war against the Spanish queen, as he had already lost a border city in Shanghai. That was a bloody battle with sizable losses for Isabella, she was actually using longbows on the offensive there to press her attack further. Qin was about to discover Feudalism himself, and he had to be setting his hopes on defending behind Protective longbows. Meanwhile, in the north, Alexander and Joao continued their bizarre long distance war with one another, each sending units into the other's territory, only to be cut down far away from home. It was about as silly a move as I've ever seen from the AI, and it was consigning both of them to loser status. They certainly couldn't afford to be trading units like this!
The real question was when (not if - when) Boudica decided to attack Isabella. There was way too much religious hatred between them for the status quo to prevail for long. Qin had to hope it was sooner rather than later, before he too was swallowed up by the Spanish monster.
Alexander and Joao did eventually sign peace, allowing them to begin recovering from their totally pointless conflict. Qin defended against Isabella with a mixture of elephants and longbows, tentatively holding the line for the moment. Boudica built Chichen Itza, the Hagia Sophia, and the Apostolic Palace for Hinduism, while Isabella constructed Shwedagon Paya. It was almost peaceful, aside from the slow erosion of Chinese units in the ongoing war against Isabella. But soon enough, the raging storm that had been building for centuries finally broke:
The trumpets of war sounded as Boudica declared war on Isabella. I'm surprised that they lasted even 15 turns since the end of the French war before going at it. Boudica had a massive military, full of outdated units true, but with catapults to lower city defenses and inflict collateral damage, she didn't need the highest quality army. This was the main stack of doom, with about 60 units split between Gallic Swords and lots of older ancient era trash. Across her whole empire, Boudica had 25 longbows, 20 chariots, 34 gallic swords, 25 axes, 19 spears, and 20 catapults. Isabella had comparable longbows, but much lower numbers of the other units. Izzy did have maces and crossbows though, which were just starting to appear on the scene. This was going to be a fascinating study - the two ladies were separated by only 20 points on the scoreboard. Catfight alert!
Isabella had the flower of her army off in Chinese territory, actually laying siege to Beijing at the time, and she seemed to be caught with her knickers down here. I mean yes, she did successfully stab a dagger into the heart of Qin:
Taking Beijing gave Isabella access to the Pyramids and the Mausoleum - quite a nice combo! - and it crippled poor Qin by slicing his territory in half. He had one city to the north and two to the south, and there was little question that Qin was finished as a world power. However, it had all come at a serious cost for Isabella. She took major losses fighting against Qin, and her lightly defended backlines (for the AI, anyway) were getting torn up by the fiery Boudica. First one of the French prizes fell at Rheims, while the main Celtic stack was laying siege to Toledo. The presence of a citadel slowed them down. It did not stop them.
If the AI were ever willing to attack before reducing defenses down to 0%, Boudica could have blazed through this territory ten times faster. Then this huge monster stack appeared to get stuck in Toledo, refusing to move for long turns afterwards. I think the mountain range to the west may have screwed up the AI's pathfinding. Regardless, the Spanish border cities were falling, and the path was open for even bolder moves. (It's too bad that Celtic light orange and Spanish peach are nearly identical colors. It made watching this action significantly more difficult.) But hey, at least Isabella took the time to research to Philosophy and found Taoism! That would surely help out in this war. The religion popped up in Beijing, of all places, the captured Chinese capital. Very strange.
And now Alexander wanted another shot at Isabella as well. Her religious fanaticism was finally coming back to bite her in the rear, just as it seems to do in every single game. Isabella AI is so obsessed with religion, she inevitably makes enemies of anyone and everyone. Even though Alexander and Qin were weak leaders at this stage of the game, their continued assaults drained resources and manpower that were desperately needed to stem the incoming Celtic tide. Prick a man (or woman in this case) enough times, and they still bleed to death.
Meanwhile, Joao decided to try and make a game for himself by declaring war on the devastated remnants of Qin's China. Yes, every single leader was now at war with someone, many of them with two opponents. This is one thing that the AI emphasizes in this game, picking on the weak empires on the power graph. They are total sharks about this, tearing into sensed weakness at the first opportunity. While I kept my main focus on the wars with Spain, I watched the Portuguese antics at the north end of the map as well. Hey, why not.
What a weird pocket of the world this was. Joao took Guangzhou up north in what was the most straightforward action. Qin was left with only two remaining cities, although he would manage to secure peace with both of his opponents and stabilize on those two cities for a time. Earlier in this same region, Qin had knocked Beijing down to a single defender, and then a wandering Greek elephant had captured the thing from Spain. Lucky Alexander! That act of total chance resulted in him controlling the Pyramids and the Mausoleum, as well as denying Qin the retrieval of his former capital. He would later revolt into Police State via those Pyramids, heh. Then Alexander's massive attack on Seville came to fruition, isolating Spanish Shanghai from the rest of Isabella's territory. Down in the south, Boudica's capture of Orleans granted her control over the Great Lighthouse, which had now changed hands twice. Isabella was fighting back, she had Guilds and was using knights liberally, but Boudica was also about to finish Guilds and open up her own mailed horsemen. It certainly didn't look good for the Spanish queen.
Greek and Celtic forces converged on Madrid, like jackals circling around a piece of carrion. Even with a citadel in place, their masses of siege units quickly dropped the defenses. Boudica had brought a much larger force, and she was the one to enjoy the lion's prize:
Boudica was now the owner of the Oracle, Parthenon, and Shwedagon Paya. The fall of the Spanish capital tore a hole through Isabella's guts, and sounded the ultimate death knell for her proud empire. Now the race was on for the spoils of the war, to see how many cities Alexander and Boudica would each manage to wrestle from the ruins of Spain before the guns fell silent.
Everyone raced for Barcelona next, an extremely valuable prize as the Buddhist holy city with shrine intact. This was quite the sight, some 100 units between Alexander and Boudica all marching in the same direction with one objective in mind. Alexander's trebuchets did much of the work of bombing down the city's defenses, but Boudica moved after Alexander in turn order, and she was the one to claim the city. Isabella had a mere two cities left now, her collapse nearly completed. The power graph told the story:
How the mighty had fallen. I just had to take this picture of the combined Greek/Celtic stack outside of Santiago in the final days of Spanish rule:
Yep, that's 110 units combined together north of the city. Boudica was streaming in another two dozen units behind that super stack. Poor Isabella didn't have a prayer, even with all of her self founded religions. Santiago fell on Turn 185, and Gepid on Turn 190. There was only a single Spanish city remaining, but before anyone could capture that, Joao declared war on Alexander. The wily Portuguese leader saw that Alexander's army was wildly out of position down in the south, and made a move against the Greek city of Corinth. Yet Greek hatred of Isabella was so great, Alex's units continued the fight against Isabella rather than returning home to defend their own core cities. Incredible anger there (or shoddy AI programming, take your pick).
An enormous Celtic army stood outside the last Spanish city for four or five turns, patiently waiting for the defenses to be bombarded away. It had to have been 20:1 odds, and Boudica still would not take them. AI logic at its best. Finally, the charade came to a merciful conclusion.
A very impressive GG to Isabella. While it's true that she was the second one to be eliminated, what an exit it was. Izzy took on seemingly the entire world, fighting anyone and everyone until finally she collapsed under the weight of too many conflicts. If she'd had just a bit more luck with the passive spreads of Buddhism, she might have been the one to emerge as the world ruler. Instead, she found herself confined to the dustbin of history like so many others. Four leaders remained, Boudica the undisputed queen and three other jokers fighting for that runner up spot.
Boudica had 60% population and 49% land area at the conclusion of her victorious war. She already met the population requirement for Domination, and needed to hit 62% to fulfill the land target. If she attacked any of the remaining leaders, she would run them over easily and win the game in short order. I wasn't sure that would happen though, as Boudica had very good relations with all of them from fighting together against Isabella. Joao seemed like the best bet, Boudica was only "Pleased" with him. As for the other leaders, Alexander and Joao were still going at it in a largely pointless war. Joao captured the city of Corinth, only to have it taken back when Alexander's main stack finally rearrived from the Spanish front. Like their previous war, this one mostly seemed to be harming both of them to little point. And Qin continued to limp along in last place, having been restored up to four cities via the liberation mechanic. He was clearly the weakest, hanging on for dear life.
While all this fighting had been going on, Joao managed to slip in and be the first to Liberalism. He took Nationalism with his free tech. Boudica cleaned up virtually everything else though, landing Taj Mahal and the Economics free Great Merchant along with assorted lesser prizes like Notre Dame, Sistine Chapel, and University of Sankore. Boudica also revolted into Free Religion after her war with Isabella was over, dropping some of the shared Hinduism bonuses with the other leaders. I was kind of hoping she'd go to war with one of them and win by Domination, to get this game over with more quickly. (Plus it would simply be cool to see the AI win that way for a change!) Alexander then signed peace with Joao, and the whole world was back to peace again after eons of strife.
Two dozen turns of quiet followed. Boudica launched a couple of Golden Ages and researched her way through first Rifling tech, then Assembly Line. She had factories and infantry before most of the others had muskets. Boudica also made sure to build the Statue of Liberty and the Pentagon along the way, the latter wonder even more powerful in the hands of an Aggressive/Charismatic civ. Free promotions for all! Joao was headed up the middle of the tech tree, passing through Scientific Method en route to Communism. It didn't seem like the greatest fit for his tiny civ though...
More action finally broke out on Turn 227, as Alexander renewed his neverending war against Joao. I suppose that this was actually a tight battle for second place, and merited more attention this time around. Alex wanted that city of Guangzhou, and he did manage to take it with minimal effort. This flipped the position of the two on the scoreboard, bringing Alexander into second place and dropping Joao into third. It was almost like the AI understood the rules of the tournament they were playing in!
Joao rallied his own forces soon enough, and the major fighting took place outside the Portuguese city of Oporto. I didn't expect much to come of this, but Alexander managed to push his way through the defenses after a lengthy siege, albeit at heavy losses to his own soliders. That gave him a foothold in Portuguese territory, as well as tightening his grip on the second place position. I wasn't sure how much it mattered though, given that the world map looked like this:
If Boudica so much as sneezed in the direction of another civ, she'd take out half their army. Apparently Boudica was also tired of playing games, because she too entered the war against Joao:
That stack next to Coimbra? I counted what was inside. Boudica was bringing 3 cannons, 69 infantry, and a mind-boggling 107 cavalry to the battlefield. Yes, there were 179 units sitting on that one single tile. And Boudica was fighting against a medieval army of knights, maces, longbows, and crossbows. If you just heard a noise in the background, that was the sound of Joao soiling his pants. He was in for one of the most brutal ass kickings I've ever seen.
This being the AI, of course, Boudica politely waited for those 3 cannons to bomb down the defenses before attacking. That has to be one of the biggest flaws in their combat routine, their insistence on ALWAYS bombing defenses with siege units before going in for the assault. At some point, they really should recognize that they have overwhelming force and simply attack. It didn't really matter what tactics Boudica used, however, as the unstoppable orange wave of destruction rolled across Portugal. Boudica even had destroyers blasting away at the naval defenses of Joao's cities and pillaging his fishing nets. How rude!
This was about halfway through the short and messy process of conquest. I don't know how Boudica let Alexander capture the city of Evora with his war elephants, especially with Celtic cavs and infantry riding circles around the port. Qin even saw which way the wind was blowing and lept into the war himself. He picked up more valuable "mutual military struggle" brownie points this way, hopefully ensuring his survival to the end of the game. I was impressed at his persistence, Qin had hung in there in a weak position for a long time now.
The final blow fell on Turn 257:
The last city being delivered by Qin, of all people! Heh. The former Portugal was now a crazy patchwork quilt of cities: 3 Celtic, 2 Greek, and 1 Chinese. To make matters even more confusing, the initial Greek capture of Guanzhou was entirely surrounded by Chinese culture. It looked like this would still leave Boudica just slightly short of enough land for Domination, and the remaining leaders all seemed rather friendly with one another. Was this game going to drag out all the way to a space or culture win?
That close. But it looked like even taking all of the Portuguese cities would have left Boudica just short. Instead, she proceeded to clean up all of the modern wonders, including the United Nations. I hoped that Boudica would call an election and put an end to this one. No such luck though, Boudica easily won the Secretary General position, yet she refused to call a diplo victory vote. She wouldn't have won anyway, as Qin kept voting for Alexander each time. Boudica wouldn't go to war with either of the remaining two leaders by virtue of Friendly relations. Her favorite civic was Universal Suffrage, which everyone was running thanks to the UN, and they all had huge mutual military struggle bonuses with one another. Boudica would not start a conflict despite having enough firepower to blow them all away before sunset.
That meant a long, slow trudge to a spaceship win with nothing of interest happening. Boudica completed the entire tech tree on Turn 307, while the other two were halfway through the industrial age. She launched her spaceship on Turn 310. While waiting for it to arrive, Alexander declared war on Qin. Some last minute drama, apparently? But no, that would have been too exciting. A United Nations resolution ended the war a few turns after it began, with no cities changing hands. Disappointing.
Finally the spaceship reached its destination on Turn 321 and Boudica mercifully put the game to bed.
A special thanks to the Beyond the Sword expansion for adding that extra 10 turn "wait for the spaceship to arrive" mechanic. It wastes time to no purpose pretty much every time. I've seen it matter exactly once, and that was with human players in our first Realms Beyond Pitboss game (sorry, regoarrarr!) Boudica came extremely close to winning by Domination, as her monstrous culture had picked up tiles here and there from the other civs during the long spaceship push. She finished at 61% land area, and needed to claim 64% for the victory. So close! Probably one more city would have done it, at the most two more cities. Tough luck for everyone who had Domination as their chosen victory condition in the predictions pool.
This game was memorable for the intense duel between Boudica and Isabella. Only one of them could win, and once Spain's collapse began, it was only a matter of time. Boudica was helped by her corner starting position there, but I would argue that this was one case where geography was not destiny. After all, Boudica's early cities were buried in jungle and she got off to a rather slow start. Instead, I'd suggest that it was Isabella's own AI personality that resulted in her ultimate demise. Izzy the AI has such a single-minded focus on religion, she makes enemies with everyone and starts wars that she can't win. Like Tokugawa AI, Isabella sabotages herself in game after game. That was perfectly on display here, as Isabella had the clear strongest position on the board in the midgame, and then threw it away by fighting against Boudica, Alexander, Louis, and Qin. Everyone except Joao! She may not have started any of those wars, but her insistence on maintaining her own religion and incessant demands of her neighbors surely provoked their aggression.
Contrast that with Boudica and Alexander, who played simplistic games of aggression that ultimately paid off. Boudica ran the perfect snowball, devouring first Louis and then Isabella to put her in an unassailable position. Alexander was more interesting, as he was held to a small corner of the map for most of the game, and never really got going. His early wars failed to succeed, and he sat near the bottom of the scoreboard for most of the game. But Alexander's AI programming insisted on fighting again, and again, and again, until he finally was able to carve out a few cities for himself at the expense of Isabella. He also plunged a dagger into Joao at the end of the game to secure his second place spot, with the help of big sis Boudica. As for Qin, he was lucky to be alive at the end of this game. Very lucky.
What this suggests to me is that in the absence of a true economic powerhouse, bet on the most militaristic AI personalities. Boudica and Alexander are both in the top 8 leaders in terms of aggression rating. They ultimately survived because they caught some breaks, and then kept fighting until their opponents were all dead.
These were Boudica's endgame Demographics, for sake of completeness. She was immensely far ahead of anyone else. Alexander was a distant second.
3) Qin Shi Huang
6) Louis XIV
Another game with exactly three survivors, it's getting to be a pattern at this point. Boudica and Alexander go through to the playoffs, and Qin will have to wait and see about a wildcard spot. With the way this is proceeding, we might simply be able to do a wildcard playoff game with all of the third place finishers. It depends on what happens in the remaining games. Three down, five more to go.