The fourth game leader draw was an absolute stunner to me. As the picks came rolling in one after another, the field kept lining up one insanely aggressive AI after another. By the time the dust had settled, we were left with 3 of the top 4 most dangerous leaders in the game. This one should be a wild and crazy battle for sheer survival!
Oh boy. Right out of the gate, we're starting with the great khan himself. Temujin has Aggressive and Imperialistic traits in Civ4, well suited to rapid expansion and military conquest. His Mongol civilization has the Keshik as a unique horseman replacement, and the Ger as a unique building. Both of them are above average, and the Ger in particular could have a long shelf life in one of these games. Temujin the AI has exactly one flavor: MILITARY. He will heavily emphasize techs that add heavier swords and bigger guns. Temujin also has a strong preference for building units (8/10), he demands tribute constantly, and brings an aggression rating of 9.5 to the table. That's the 3rd highest out of the 52 leaders in this game, but he's not even the most aggressive leader in this game! Wow. In addition to the rest, Temujin also has Police State as his favorite civic. This guy is infamous for his warring ways, expect him to stir up plenty of trouble.
We rarely see Gilgamesh in our Multiplayer events, although his Sumerian civ is one of the most popular choices. Gilgamesh himself is Creative and Protective, that second trait being the main reason why he's persona non grata. (Protective is hands down the worst trait in Civ4.) His Sumerian civilization has the underwhelming Vulture as a unique unit, and the very nice Ziggurat as a unique building. Sumeria also has the nice benefit of starting with Agriculture and Wheel techs, sadly not really a factor for the Deity AIs and their free starting techs. Since everyone begins with Agriculture and Wheel techs (and Hunting and Archery), Gilgamesh is actually disadvantaged in this situation. Gilgamesh AI is another highly aggressive leader. He has military and culture flavors, and stands out a bit in this group of leaders for having a major preference for wonders (8/10 rating). That said, Gilgamesh AI still prioritizes units and has an aggression rating of 8/10. He's listed as the eighth most violent leader overall out of the full 52 leaders. This would put him at the top of the charts for most games, but he's only average in this one. It's a tough crowd.
Huayna Capac is the rare economic leader in this game of thugs. Huayna is often viewed as the strongest pick for Single Player games with restricted leaders, due to his excellent Financial and Industrious traits, alongside the Incan civ. The Quechua is very good at abusing the AI love of early game archers, especially on Marathon speed, while the Terrace is the best unique building in the entire game. A granary that also provides culture is simply broken from a design standpoint. Huayna the AI comes off as less formidable though; he has gold and production flavors, and likes to construct wonders (8/10 rating). Everything else is average across the board, right in the middle of the rating system. Predicting Huayna's performance is a bit tricky. He has the best economic setup amongst this group by far, but he needs to be alive to take advantage of it. With this collection of sociopaths, that's an open question.
If you've played Civ4 for any length of time, then you probably already know that Montezuma AI is completely and utterly insane. He's like a rabid dog let loose in the streets to cause as much trouble as possible before being put down. Montezuma has Aggressive and Spiritual traits, a pair that often seems to work well for the AI. His Aztec civilization has the Jaguar Warrior and the Sacrificial Altar, neither of which comes off as overly scary. It's not the traits or the civ that makes Montezuma dangerous - it's the man himself. Monty the AI has polarizing numbers all over the place. His flavors are military and religious, and along with the Mysticism starting tech of the Aztecs, this usually causes Montezuma to found his own religion and defend it to the death. Monty has a 0/10 rating for wonders - he won't waste time building them. Instead, he'll concentrate on training units (8/10), demanding tribute (10/10), and fighting wars of conquest. Montezuma's aggression rating sits at a perfect 10/10: he is the leader most likely to declare war in the entire game. With Monty around, life is always an adventure. Sure, he often falls behind technologically and gets dogpiled, but it's never a dull game with Montezuma in the field. Be afraid, be very afraid.
Oh yeah, Shaka's in this game too. Because Genghis Khan and Montezuma weren't enough. As I said at the top, that's 3 of the top 4 aggressive leaders in this game, missing only Ragnar for the full set. Shaka has Aggressive and Expansive traits, a pairing that's caused him to see occasional use in some of our Pitboss games. Shaka's Zulu civ is often seen as one of the best in the game, packaging the fast-moving Impi along with the Ikhanda for a unique building. It's a shame that the AI doesn't know how to use these effectively, as Shaka was a universal ban on the Multiplayer ladder back in the days of the Warlords expansion. Shaka AI looks much like Temujin AI and Montezuma AI, with only a single flavor: MILITARY. He has a rating of 10/10 for unit emphasis, and an aggression rating of 9.2 out of 10, good enough for fourth place in the entire game. Like Temujin and Montezuma, he also has Police State as his favorite civic. If any of these leaders build or capture the Pyramids, they'll choose that civic for the rest of the game. Shaka's only real difference is that he doesn't make much in the way of demands. These guys are all totally nuts, and should be a sight to watch.
Sitting Bull is wildly out of place in this group of leaders, as a mostly peaceful figure who generally wants to be left alone. He has Philosophical and Protective traits, that second one again being the reason why we never see Sitting Bull played in Multiplayer stuff. The Native American civ has the Dog Soldier and Totem Pole unique items, neither of which has ever impressed me very much. Then again, given the AI's love of archers, Sitting Bull AI might get something out of his Protective + totem pole combination. As an AI, Sitting Bull has military and growth flavors. He's odd in the sense that his aggression rating is well below average (4.3 out of 10), but Sitting Bull trains a lot of units and tends to go after military techs. He doesn't start wars, but at the same time he doesn't like to be conquered. The other odd feature of Sitting Bull AI is his love of espionage spending and tribute demands, both of which he does all the time. I expect Sitting Bull to lose to one of our highly aggressive leaders, but to put up a good fight before he goes down.
Suleiman is the other Ottoman leader that no one ever plays because Mehmed's traits are so much better. Suleiman gets Imperialistic and Philosophical traits, a far cry from the Expansive and Organized pair of Mehmed. They share the Janissary and Hamman unique stuff by virtue of having the same Ottoman civ. Suleiman AI has culture and military flavors. Yes, that means 6 out of the 7 leaders here have military as one of their two flavors (and it's the only flavor for Temujin and Montzeuma). Suleiman is otherwise fairly average across the board, with middle of the road numbers in virtually every category. His aggression rating is slightly above average at 7/10, and that's about it. Suleiman seems destined to be overshadowed by the larger AI personalities in this game.
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The net result is an unpredictable group of despots determined to take over the world at any cost. If any game is going to end by Domination, this would seem to be the one. Most of these leaders can plot war at "Pleased" rating, and they don't much like anyone other than themselves. The wars should come fast and furious, and they're unlikely to stop. Someone is going to reach the promised land, but only at the cost of climbing over piles of bodies to get there. Who can be the most ruthless and survive this brutal battle to the finish?
The direction in which the AI chooses to send out its free Deity settler often turns out to be one of the biggest chance factors in each game, and it's impossible to predict ahead of time. There were some strange choices immediately in this match. Montezuma chose to send his settler north towards the tundra, leaving much of the center of the map open for other leaders to contest. Meanwhile, Shaka and Huayna and Sitting Bull all pushed towards the middle. Huayna Capac in particular looked to have a strong back line if he played things correctly. As far as capitals went, I didn't see any obvious duds. Gilgamesh probably had the weakest, with plains cow and crabs resources, but he also had stone to play around with. Montezuma was the most interesting, with dry corn and stone and 11 floodplains. I was curious to see how the AI would choose to play that one with tile improvements.
There was no race for religions in this game, as Montezuma went for Polytheism/Hinduism while Huayna Capac claimed Meditation/Buddhism. The Incan city of Tiwanaku was an excellent place for a holy city to pop up, able to control a large batch of territory in the contested zone. Since Montezuma and Huayna were neighbors with one another, I expected that this religious dynamic would create interesting times for someone in a hurry.
Over in the west, Gilgamesh placed his second city west, and his third city north, claiming no land at all with these early settlements. He also paused to build Stonehenge in his capital, despite not having connected his stone resource yet. (Remember that Gilgamesh AI has a strong wonder focus in his programming.) Along with the aggressive placement of Ankara by Suleiman, this boxed in the Sumerians very tightly. Gilgamesh was going to be stuck on a very small number of cities unless he went to war and took some land away from the Ottomans.
In the middle of the map, all of the competing parties sent their third cities away from the center. Shaka, Sitting Bull, and Huayna all expanded in the opposite direction, into their safe backlines. Times like this make it obvious how there's no true strategic mind behind these AI leaders, only lines of code operating in response to external programming. It looked rather silly in action.
This area in the middle of the map seemed certain to be a powder keg in the future. Montezuma's borders touched Huayna's borders repeatedly across a long line to the north and south, plus they also had competing faiths to rival one another. Sitting Bull, meanwhile, had managed to become the "worst enemy" of Montezuma, Huayna, Shaka, and Temujin all at once! Unpopular guy, it seems. This was due to the hidden "peace weight" numbers, where certain AIs are naturally ranked along an alignment scale of Good, Neutral, or Bad. Sitting Bull has a Good rating in peace weight, while all of the other leaders are considered Evil under the hood. It predisposed all of them to dislike Sitting Bull regardless of what he did. Sitting Bull had also spread out his cities far and wide, prompting border conflict with most everyone. The whole thing was a recipe for trouble.
At this point 50 turns into the game, Montezuma and Huayna Capac were the early game score leaders. This was mostly due to their religions, which claim more land and therefore translate into more score points. Everyone else was fairly close, except for Genghis Khan Temujin in last place. He had been given a poor tundra start, and although I thought he might be able to play his way out of that, the Temujin AI picked spots with zero food for several of his cities. This crippled Temujin's population growth and future expansion. He'd have to go to war and take over territory to make something of this game.
Finally we had a game where the Hinduism founder didn't also go on to found Judaism. It was close though, Suleiman beat Montezuma to this religion by a single turn! This meant that Suleiman converted to Judaism on the next turn, and we had three competing religions on different sides of the world.
With all of the rabid AI personalities in this game, I never thought that the first war declaration would come from Huayna Capac:
He REALLY disliked that city placement of Mesa Verde. Somehow Sitting Bull had managed to grab this spot which was overlapped by Incan culture on three sides. Fortunately for the Native American leader, Sitting Bull's archers were ridiculously well promoted. With totem poles and Protective traits, a whole bunch of them were City Garrison III. Sitting Bull also had the misfortune of missing both copper and horses (he had iron but needed to finish researching Iron Working tech), however he happily had resourceless dog soldiers to play around with on defense. The Native American civilization was definitely working to Sitting Bull's advantage here. Perhaps because of this, I saw no initial attack coming out of Huayna. The war was inert for the moment.
Nearly every leader had been trying to build the Pyramids, but Montezuma actually got them first on Turn 70. He beat Gilgamesh by a mere three turns, both of them using their stone resources to good effect. This was important for diplomatic reasons, as Montezuma was able to swap into his favorite civic of Police State. That's also the favorite civic of Shaka and Temujin, which meant a major relations boost amongst the three most warlike leaders in the game. Would they all become best buddies from this and go on to dominate the game?
Huayna Capac built the Oracle a few turns later, and used it to slingshot Metal Casting. That was a perfect choice for his Industrious civ. Huayna was doing very well for himself, I liked his chances to finish in the top two if he could survive an attack from Montezuma.
I swear that I wrote that last sentence before this war broke out. I write these reports as I go along, it would be way too difficult to reconstruct them after the fact. Anyway, Montezuma's religious differences with Huayna Capac forced him into a war with his neighbor, same as we've all seen a hundred times before in other games. In our past games, AI leaders typically haven't fared all that well when dealing with military action on multiple sides at once. That said, Huyana was one of the game leaders in nearly every category, and he was actually tops in power on the charts. If anyone was going to fight off this two front war situation, it was going to be him.
The very next turn, Temujin declared war on Sitting Bull as well. Then Shaka also declared war on Sitting Bull too! Lots of action going on now in the east. Let's back up and get an overview map before any cities started changing hands.
This was where we stood at the end of the landgrab phase. The winners to this point had been Montezuma, Huayna, and Suleiman. The losers had been Gilgamesh and Temujin, both of them boxed into weak positions. From this point on, the leaders were going to have to fight wars to claim more land. The most unpopular figures at the moment were clearly Sitting Bull and Huayna Capac. I thought that they'd be able to hold out for some time though, as no one had Construction tech for catapults. Huayna had heavy cultural defenses in most cities and a large military, while Sitting Bull had cheap Protective walls everywhere (further discounted by stone) and those super promoted archers. This looked like it was going to be a long and grinding war of attrition between all sides.
The wars raged on and on, many units dying on each side, no cities changing hands. Montezuma kept attacking at the Incan border cities, although without any prospect of success. It was incredible how many Aztec units charged into suicidal rushes and died against the cultural defenses of Machu Picchu and Tiwanaku. Down to the south, the aggression from Shaka and Temujin came against the Sitting Bull city of Chaco Canyon. That settlement built city walls early on, and with those super archers and highly promoted dog soldiers defending with 50% bonus, the invading Zulu and Mongol units were cut to ribbons. The result was therefore stalemate for long turns on end.
Finally, Montezuma and Temujin began researching Construction tech, pushing towards the one unit that would put an end to this situation. They both finished a little before Turn 100, and began the process of amassing catapult stacks. Shaka soon followed with his own Construction research, although he dropped out of the war against Sitting Bull for the moment. Montezuma also had ivory in his territory, which he had narrowly managed to settle right on the border with Huayna. This meant the infamous Construction duo of catapults and war elephants, which so many players have used to good effect.
Well now, this was certainly unexpected. With all of the existing wars apparently locked in stalemate, Shaka decided to open a new front by going after Montezuma. His force charged after the Aztec city of Tlatelolco, which was an important target since it contained the Pyramids inside. The intial attack left a single axeman alive inside with 0.2 health remaining, and the city fell the next turn. Our first city capture of the game, going over to Shaka. This caused Montezuma to sign peace with Huyana Capac, and allow him to focus his units on the southern Zulu menace. Montezuma retook the city the turn after it was captured, only to fall again to Shaka on Turn 111. (Each time they gained and lost the Pyramids, they each kept revolting into Police State civic, and then were forced out of it when the city passed to the other leader. Heh.) These wars were flying around so fast and furious, it was difficult for me to keep track of them all. Still no true breakthrough from anyone yet.
Against the background of all these wars, Huayna Capac and Suleiman were quietly in very good shape. Huayna had managed to survive the initial insane attack from Montezuma, and with the Aztec leader distracted by Shaka, the Incans were developing into a strong position here. Huayna was taking the barb cities in his back lines and turning them into productive contributers. Suleiman had been able to avoid war at all to this point, and claimed a lot of territory that really should have gone to Shaka or Montezuma while they were off fighting endlessly. When Suleiman finally managed to clear his massive tracts of jungle, he would be a fearsome competitor for the top spot.
Huayna wasn't content to sit on his laurels though, as he declared war against Sitting Bull on Turn 118. With the Native American leader also at war with Temujin in the south, this looked like the beginning of the end for him. There was simply too much hate against him, nobody seemed to like Sitting Bull from the start of the game (due to peace weight factors). Chaco Canyon, the site of a hundred battles, fell the next turn:
Despite all of their many promotions, archers are still just archers in the end when defending. Once Temujin was able to eliminate the walls of the city with his catapults, it fell in relative quick order. I was genuinely impressed with the khan's performance here. Given the worst starting position in the game, he was making something of his Mongol civilization. If he could claim a good share of the spoils from Sitting Bull, he might even become a competitor. Too bad that the Mongol vs. Native American war was a series of brown vs. brown action on the minimap, argh! Mesa Verde fell four turns later to the Incans, leaving Sitting Bull with a mere four cities and rapidly diminishing chances at survival.
Montezuma and Shaka continued their brutal war against one another. Shaka made an attack on the Aztec capital, bombing out all of the defenses with his catapults, only to fall short of his goal. Montezuma had way too many units, and it honestly wasn't that close. Their endless slaughter was seriously damaging each of their chances to win this game, as they'd both fallen well back into the middle of the pack by this point in time.
Yeah, just a matter of time now for poor old Sitting Bull. Look at his remaining empire stretched out in a thin line like that, impossible to defend. Huayna Capac appeared to be getting most of the prizes from this conflict, and threatened to turn into an unstoppable runaway. Having the best economic traits by far in this game certainly wouldn't hurt him either.
Tlatelolco after changing hands for the fifth time in the Aztec/Zulu war. Note how torn up the terrain gets when the AI armies fight over it endlessly. They love to pillage tiles in enemy territory, they spend a lot of time doing that as they shuffle around. This is a fairly good simulation of real life warfare, and the collateral damage that it inflicts on everyone in the vicinity. I imagine that the civilian population of this border region would be suffering heavily, if Civ4 were set up to model that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, Huayna was the tops in power by a wide margin, and was so strong that he was laying siege to multiple Native American cities at once. The capital of Cahokia fell on Turn 142, Mound City was captured on Turn 143, and that left Snaketown as the only remaining city for Sitting Bull. There was a bit of a race for that last spot between Huayna and Temujin, but of course the Incan leader was the winner. He had a lot more soldiers on the board.
Sitting Bull became the first AI leader to exit the game. While I did think he'd be killed off at some point in this match, I thought his natural defensive tendencies would prevent him from being the first to die. Gilgamesh's survival on a tiny plot of land was fairly remarkable, for example. (That was almost certainly due to the "Friendly" status between Suleiman and Gilgamesh; they both shared Judaism as a faith along with Hereditary Rule as favorite civic status.) Sitting Bull simply became the worst enemy of way too many competitors. With him out of the way, it was a real question where the AI aggression would turn next.
Montezuma and Shaka finally signed peace at this point. The total net result of the war was one city changing hands, the Zulu city of Nongoma passing to Montezuma in the treaty. This conflict had been a major disaster for both parties, but especially for Shaka, who had started the war and fought endlessly, only to lose a city in the end. Not what he was looking for, to say the least. While they were fooling around, Huayna Capac had devoured Sitting Bull and obtained most of the choice land in the middle of the map. Sometimes the aggressive leaders can be too warlike for their own good. The world was finally at peace for the first time in long centuries.
Well, that lasted for all of about five turns before Shaka declared war on Montezuma again. Shaka obviously wanted Nongoma back again, which he did take almost immediately. Unfortunately for the Zulu leader, since he had gifted the city to Monty at the end of the previous war, all of the Zulu culture had disappeared and Shaka gained little advantage from this move.
This was much more significant. Huayna decided not to rest on his laurels, and joined the war against Montezuma as well. The Aztecs had built castles everywhere to provide extra defenses in all cities, but this still looked pretty dire for Montezuma. Huayna had an extremely large army, and the Aztecs were exhausted from their earlier rounds of warring, plus Shaka was taking part in this conflict too. Montezuma might be the next one marked for extinction.
Montezuma shortly recaptured Nongoma again, even as Shaka laid siege to Tlatelolco and eventually took it back. Those two cities on the Aztec/Zulu border had been fought over so many times, it was almost hard to believe they were still standing. (Does the AI ever raze cities?) The Pyramids had now changed hands six different times. Huayna set his sights on the city of Texcoco over to the east, investing it with his incredible stack of doom. The Incan emperor had about 85 units in his main group, made up of maces and horse archers, crossbows and longbows, with a few siege units at the end to remove city defenses. They punched through Texcoco without much of an effort, and headed next for the Aztec capital.
While this was going on off to the east, Suleiman was quietly taking the Liberalism prize. Interestingly, he used it to grab Astronomy as the free tech. Suleiman was the GNP leader by a wide margin at this point, not Huayna as you might have thought. Huayna was doing too much warring, if he ever stopped and consolidated he would probably begin to crank up the research machine to full blast. Anyway, the Ottoman leader had been doing extremely well, even claiming a couple of cities to the northwest of Montezuma's start. That shouldn't have been even remotely possible, just look at the dark green extending up to the Arctic on that minimap! Very unusual. For that matter, Gilgamesh was actually second in GNP with his tiny little four city empire. He had the Mausoleum if he ever bothered to fire off a Golden Age, something the AI rarely seems to do.
And then this madness happened. Gilgamesh, nooooooooooo! I was just writing about how well you were doing! Suleiman was well above Gilgamesh in power, and in second place on the game overall. I have no idea what Gilgamesh was thinking here, taking on an empire triple his size and about double in power rating. Pure insanity. There was no way this could possibly end well for Sumeria.
And then Genghis Khan Temjin declared war on Shaka the next turn, looking to gain more territory for himself. Holy cow man, it's like that brief interval of peace offended these guys or something. Every leader in the game was now at war with at least one other leader. Here was the power chart as the kettle of aggression boiled over:
I was having to watch about four different parts of the map at once to keep track of what was going on. There were a lot of units moving around. A lot. Gilgamesh's stack was the first to go, as Ottoman units counterattacked before they could achieve much of anything. It was wiped out to the last man outside the gates of Ankara. This pretty much left Sumeria completely and utterly defenseless against the armies of Suleiman. Again, what were you THINKING, Gilgamesh?! Nongoma was traded back to the Zulus yet again, the third time it had changed hands. In the southeast, the Zulu city of Bulawayo fell to the Mongols amid heavy fighting.
But all of this action was largely secondary in importance. The real news was the ongoing freefall of Montezuma, whose civilization seemed to be disintegrating by the turn. The proud Aztec leader had fallen to last in power now, and continued to be confronted by one military disaster after another. Montezuma's capital of Tenochtitlan fell the turn after this picture was taken, the massive Incan stack of doom overrunning all challengers. There was little to be said for Montezuma at this point. He was like a terminally ill patient placed on hospice care, simply awaiting the inevitable end.
Somehow Gilgamesh was able to secure peace with Suleiman, trading away his border city of Lagash in return for a treaty. I wondered if this could really work out in the long run. Gilgamesh was going to be the weak dog on the totem pole by far once Montezuma was gone, and it seemed doubtful that this group of leaders would allow him to survive for long. Then again, Suleiman's AI will not plot war at "Pleased" relations, and that was his status with Gilgamesh even after their war. Who knows, we'd have to see if Gilgamesh could somehow manage to stay alive.
Montezuma finally kicked the bucket on Turn 193. His fall from grace had been amazing to watch, as the Aztecs had been one of the game leaders for most of the first 100 turns, and seemed well positioned to take one of the top two spots. Montezuma's collapse had begun with his first war against Huyana Capac, and been sealed when he fought for so long against Shaka. That second conflict hadn't been his fault, but the first one most certainly had been. It was difficult to feel too sorry for Montezuma, since he was the one who had provoked the Incan bear in the first place. In many ways, this was only his just desserts for an AI personality far too obssessed with warfare. Huayna Capac came out of all this smelling like a rose; twice now he had taken advantage of pre-existing wars to jump in and claim nearly all of the rewards. With both the Native Americans and the Aztecs, he had picked up almost all of the cities for himself. He was a serious threat to win via Domination at this point, if he chose to keep on attacking the weaker civs around him.
That left Shaka and Temujin as the only leaders still fighting. Shaka was able to recapture Bulawayo once the Aztec war had drawn to a close, but his attack against the Mongol city of Chaco Canyon ended in failure. They appeared to be evenly matched for the moment, with very similar techs and roughly comparable land area. Temujin was just slightly weaker, ever so slowly losing ground, still holding on to his cities for the moment.
The map on Turn 200 looked significantly different without Montezuma in it. Huayna Capac now controlled 40% of the world's land area, two thirds of the way to Domination. He might be able to get there by absorbing the southern lands of Shaka and Temujin. Maybe, maybe not. I was most interested at this point to see if anyone in the huge Jewish block of nations would swap to Free Religion, and therefore lose the shared religious bonus. That was propping up relations with most of these leaders, along with the fact that Huayna Capac, Suleiman, and Gilgamesh all had Hereditary Rule as their favorite civic. Without that boost to relations, Gilgamesh surely would have been killed by Suleiman long ago.
Temujin eventually obtained peace with Shaka in exchange for the city of Turfan. This war had not gone well in the end for the Mongols. They had held possession of both Bulawayo and Nodwengu earlier in the fighting, only to see Shaka capture both of them back again before the treaty was inked. Losing the core city of Turfan was another serious blow. Given the immense hatred between these two leaders, it was likely that they would fight again, and I didn't favor Temujin's chances in a repeat engagement. The world finally returned to peace for a second time.
On Turn 212, Suleiman finally switched over to Free Religion civic, dissolving the shared Jewish ties that he'd held for most of the game with his surrounding neighbors. Judaism had spread to a ridiculous extent on this world:
Virtually the whole world had become followers of Yahweh. It was too bad for Suleiman that he had never been able to turn up a Great Prophet for the Jewish shrine. (Then he built the thing like two turns after I typed this, heh. It was worth 38 gold/turn, very nice.) The biggest effect of this diplo change was to drop Suleiman down to "Annoyed" status with Gilgamesh. It seemed likely that Suleiman would use his massive power advantage to crush his tiny neighbor at some point, now that Gilgamesh was no longer magically shielded from aggression by diplomacy.
The peace held though, at least for the moment. Huayna Capac teched to Communism and built the Kremlin, while Suleiman countered by building the Statue of Liberty. Shaka was the first one to Rifling tech, followed by Military Tradition, and I wondered how long it would be before he went after Temujin once more. I didn't have too long to wait, as Shaka started up the war again on Turn 225. The great khan would have his own rifles a few turns later, but it might not be enough. And in the far northwest, the dam finally burst on Turn 228:
Not exactly a surprise. Gilgamesh had survived thus far due to the diplomatic shield of shared religion and shared favorite civic. However, Suleiman had since switched to Free Religion and Universal Suffrage, which caused their relationship to plummet. The Sumerian leader had also engaged in a bunch of foolish espionage missions against Suleiman that further dropped relations. Like Montezuma, it was hard to see this as anything other than Gilgamesh getting his fair due for earlier pointless aggression.
Both the Mongols and the Sumerians were in for difficult and desperate times. Temujin lost a pitched battle at Chaco Canyon, the city that he had taken away from the Native Americans so long ago. While he could fight back with his own rifles, Shaka was now running around with cavalry, and with the number of grenadiers that the Zulus had on their side, rifles were scant defense anyway. As for Gilgamesh, he was fielding a mostly medieval army of longbows, trebuchets, and some muskets against the cavalry and janissaries of the Ottomans. The border city of Ur went down immediately, and the flower of the Sumerian army was killed in the defense. Gilgamesh's hopes now rested on securing a very unlikely peace treaty for a second time.
The Mongols desperately tried to hold on in their frozen southeast corner of the continent. Temujin was putting up a darned good fight, and Shaka was not having an easy time of this battle. He was taking heavy losses in fighting with cavs and grenadiers against rifles. Still, the weight of numbers did tell, and Temujin was slowly being ground down beneath the Zulu heel. Barring some kind of miraculous turnaround, the ending was certain.
Both Gilgamesh and Temujin held on for a long time. In Gilgamesh's case, it was Suleiman's insistence on bombing down the defenses in each city before attacking, despite having an astronomical edge in numbers. Gilgamesh had Chichen Itza wonder for extra defenses, which added more time to the tedious process. Eventually, Suleiman got serious and brought up a half dozen cannons, which put an end to the farce.
That should have ended a long time ago. Gilgamesh had a tough corner start, and he simply failed to do enough with it. He allowed Suleiman to settle all of the contested land between them, and didn't make a move to go on the offensive until it was much too late. I think the stone resource was a curse for Gilgamesh, causing him and his high wonder emphasis to waste time on stuff that wasn't very important. I mean, Gilgamesh did build Stonehenge, Chichen Itza, Spiral Minaret, and the Mausoleum, so he had that going for him. But more cities and more units might have been a better choice. It also wasn't very smart to get caught spying on your vastly larger and more powerful neighbor, and then declare war on them to boot. They might not like that very much, you know? In any case, Gilgamesh exited the scene, and was not particularly missed.
While all this had been going on, Huayna Capac - remember him? - had been quietly researching up through Railroad and then Assembly Line techs. He added rails and factories everywhere, turning his former production lead into a crushing edge over everyone else. He also built the Pentagon, and all of the modern era wonders from that point forward. His power was off the charts compared to everyone else, and there was little chance that anyone other than Suleiman would be able to hold their own in a war. I'm not sure even the Ottomans would have been a good match. With Huayna being one of those leaders who can plot war at "Pleased" relations, that wasn't a great sign for the other civs. Sure enough, Huayna eventually got tired of playing in his sandbox, and went after Shaka:
This was a couple of turns before Gilgamesh actually died, and it quickly became the main story of the game. Huayna had a crazy number of military units running around. I used debug mode to pop in some airships and scout around with recon missions. The numbers that came back: 85 cavalry, 80 infantry, 40 cannons, 23 machine guns. And that was just the stuff on the front lines, not his entire civilization. Suddenly that Zulu army of cavs and rifles and grenadiers didn't look so scary anymore. Suddenly Shaka didn't care about fighting Temujin anymore. (They signed peace shortly thereafter.) Nongoma was run over like a penny on a railroad track. Tlatelolco disappeared equally fast, I don't think Huayna even stopped to catch his breath. As it turned out, these heavily disputed cities didn't belong to either the Aztecs or the Zulus. They belonged to Huayna Capac.
The unpronounceable city of uMgungundlovu was next (thank goodness THAT hadn't been a border city). Bulawayo followed afterwards. Huayna used his Open Borders with Temujin to move through Mongol territory and take away all of Shaka's conquests from that war. Shaka's cities were starving to death from a combination of war weariness and Emancipation unhappiness. He finally signed peace with Temujin to quell the war weariness, and that helped some. Not enough though, as Zululand continued to disappear turn by turn.
Just ten turns into the war, and this was all that was left of Shaka. Huayna wasn't playing around. In particular, his artillery units dropped the cultural defenses of the Zulu cities incredibly fast. The artillery shots against "only cultural" defenses were a massive contrast to the catapult and trebuchet shots against castle defenses, which had been the norm for most of the past hundred turns. The artillery pieces weren't even dying when they went in for collateral damage attacks either. It was all snowballing out of control, as the Zulu cities fell one by one.
Shaka's capital of Ulundi was captured on Turn 266, followed by Turfan on Turn 270, Nodwenga and Nobamba on Turn 273. By now, Huayna had finished Industrialism tech and added tank divisions to his armies. He had fighter planes and battleships stripping the cultural defenses of cities on the go, without having to wait for the artillery to roll forward one tile at a time. As dumb as the AI can be when it comes to tactics, their performance with the lategame military toys isn't all that bad.
It was all over on Turn 279:
That was a LOT of units around the last Zulu city. Huayna Capac had been paradropping in more units for the last few turns, you know since his main stack of doom with 150+ units in it wasn't enough to get the job done. As for Shaka, he'd put up a good fight in this game, won the duel with Montezuma earlier, but was destined to fall to Huayna like his earlier fallen predecessors. It wasn't really his fault here, as the Incans had become runaways and simply decided that it was time for the Zulus to die. There was very little that Shaka could have done about this.
Now the attention shifted to endgame scenarios. How was this one going to be brought to a final conclusion? Huayna Capac was sitting at 55% land area after the conclusion of the Zulu war, still needing a bit more land to top the Domination requirement. He would surely win via that route if he declared another war, and Huayna was only "Cautious" with Suleiman. Temujin was fortunate enough to sit just above the "Friendly" threshhold, literally by a single diplo point. The khan had actually topped that mark by gaining +2 diplo points for voting in favor of Huayna in the UN Secretary General elections, a very prudent move. If Huayna chose to call a vote for the Diplomatic victory condition, he would almost certainly take the game in that fashion, with Temujin adding his votes to the Incan leader.
Meanwhile, Suleiman was taking his only shot at winning the game: Cultural victory! He was running 100% culture on the slider, and needed roughly 30-40 more turns to grind out a win. This was extremely risky, of course, given that Suleiman's technology was not advancing any longer. He had stopped without finishing Assembly Line tech, which meant rifles and machine guns and airplanes (since Suleiman had Flight and Radio), but no infantry or tanks or anything higher. I doubted he'd stay alive for very long if Huayna chose to attack. But that prompted the ten thousand dollar question: what would Huayna's AI programming decide to do here?
The first UN vote was for Universal Suffrage civic. Nope, game not going to end there. The next vote was for Free Religion civic. Typical AI behavior. I thought we might go on like this until the end of the game by Huayna spaceship or Suleiman culture.
Instead we got a much more exciting ending. Huayna declared war on Suleiman! This was the primary stack of doom, and it was one of the largest that I've ever seen. There are so many units there that they can't even fit on the overlay. I had to scroll to the right to find three more rows of units. All told, there were 219 Incan units on that tile, and that was far from the only military heading across the border. There were over 80 Mobile SAMs alone. Dear lord. Remind me not to get on Huayna Capac's bad side.
The war declaration caused Suleiman to abandon his Cultural victory attempt, as he turned science back on and began a desperate attempt to save his homeland from destruction. Oh, and by the way, Huayna had another high tech toy that he wasn't afraid to use in this conflict:
Tactical nukes began raining down on the Ottoman cities, spreading clouds of radioactive fallout far and wide. The AI is surprisingly willing to use these things in extreme lategame, and poor Suleiman had absolutely no counters due to his backwards technology. Huayna was launching two or three of them per turn, rapidly turning the landscape into a wasteland straight out of the Fallout games. In fact, Huayna launched SEVEN tactical nukes just on Turn 298!
I was starting to worry about the safety of the Incan troops, much less the Ottoman ones. Soon there wouldn't be anything left! In any case, Huayna's units passed through the irradiated zone and began capturing cities, starting with Konya and Gaziantep in the southeast. It was almost too bad that the game wasn't a little bit closer, to create some drama of Temujin passing Suleiman in score. It looked like the Ottoman leader was far enough ahead that he'd be able to hold on to the second place spot before Huayna hit Domination. Still, if his cities were nuked enough times... well, you never know.
Given enough time, Suleiman would almost certainly have died, since he had no way of pushing back this attack. Fortunately for him, Huayna hit the Domination cap on land a few turns later, and that was that:
Our first Domination victory of the competition, and certainly well earned. Huayna got the snowball rolling early on and he never looked back. This was one of the strongest performances that we had seen to date, I'm looking forward to his next match in the playoff round. The victory could have been won even earlier, if Huayna hadn't paused for a number of turns after the Zulu war doing nothing in particular. For that matter, he could have chosen to attack Temujin just as easily as Suleiman, in which case we'd have been left with a mere two surviving leaders. Temujin was very lucky to be alive at the end. Another game with exactly three survivors! It's looking more and more likely that we'll throw all of these third place finishers into their own wildcard playoff game for the final spots.
Here's our final overview map. When I went back and read through this game after it was over, I kept going back to Shaka's declaration of war against Montezuma as the biggest turning point of the match. Prior to that point in time, Huayna had been facing a two front war from both Montezuma and Sitting Bull. The Incan leader's Buddhist faith made him unpopular with most of his neighbors, and it seemed likely that he'd be an inevitable casualty to one of his more militaristic opponents. Shaka could have chosen to stay at war with Sitting Bull instead of fighting Montezuma; this would have likely resulted in the Zulus claiming most of the Native American spoils, and then Shaka and Montezuma dominating the central part of the continent together.
Instead, Shaka signed peace with Sitting Bull and threw his aggression at Montezuma. This gave Huayna Capac the breathing space that he needed, as he signed a treaty with Montezuma and turned instead to Sitting Bull, who was weak and exhausted from his own many wars. Huayna ended up getting all but one Native American city. Then, after Shaka and Montezuma had tired one another with their long and indecisive conflict, Huayna jumped into the battlefield and took all of the Aztec cities. Same thing again towards the end of the game, Huayna let Temujin and Shaka exhaust themselves with a long war, then picked his moment to enter the fight and claim all of Shaka's cities. His timing couldn't have been much better in each case. It was almost like a canny practitioner of realpolitik was leading the Incan Empire, rather than an AI logic sequence that happened to get lucky on multiple occasions.
Huayna's demographic numbers confirmed his extreme runaway status. GNP was the only area where Suleiman was even close, and he had less than half of Huayna's value there. It only looked decent in comparison to the other numbers, where Huayna had triple the Food, five times the Production, and more than eight times the military strength. Not exactly a nailbiter at the end of the game.
1) Huayna Capac
3) Genghis Khan Temujin
7) Sitting Bull
Huayna Capac and Suleiman qualified for the playoffs, and we'll be seeing both of them in another game after this opening round finishes. Temujin will likely head to a wildcard match against the likes of Peter, Zara, and Qin - all of the "lucky to be alive" leaders from past games. I was happy to see Temujin somehow manage to navigate through the minefield of this game and stay alive. He had the weakest starting position by a good margin, and it was one place where I considered editing the map to make it more fair. (I liked everything about this map except the Mongol starting position.) No need, apparently! The khan lives on to fight another day. He'll get a chance to make his mark with better terrain.
Thanks for reading, hope everyone continues to enjoy the competition. Game Five is up next.