The No District Challenge: Deity Space Race

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Small map, Continents, 4 AI Opponents
Abundant resources, Wet climate, New world age
Deity difficulty
Patch Version

As I write this report, it's been two years since the release of Civilization 6. Over that span of time I had the opportunity to play roughly two dozen Single Player games, several tournament games, one succession game, and a pair of highly intense Multiplayer games against some fantastic opponents. But with the passage of time and lots of practice, the community skill level has increased enormously and Civ6's gameplay hasn't been able to keep pace. This is a game that we've increasingly figured out, to the point that Single Player games don't provide much interest or challenge any longer. The Epics/Adventures for Civ6 died out after about six months because the AI in this game is so braindead that there was no opponent worth playing against. Multiplayer has been keeping the game alive at Realms Beyond since then, but we've reached the point where even the Play By Email (PBEM) games are starting to get a bit rote. We essentially know what the ideal gameplay choices are by now (capture city states, build old units and mass upgrade them, utilize chop/harvest overflow math, make use of the district discounting formula, etc.) and Multiplayer is increasingly turning into an optimization exercise of who can execute these strategies the most efficiently. While that will hold the interest of some individuals, it's never been very appealing for me. I enjoy exploring new gameplay territory as opposed to perfecting one particular known path. It's the reason why I've never tried to get into speedrunning while holding a lot of respect for those who do.

There was one variant that I've wanted to try since my first game of Civ6 though, and this seemed like the ideal time to put it to the test. If it wasn't now, then it was never going to happen. The variant is simple: no specialty districts, period. The player must win the game without ever building one of the specialty districts that lie at the core of the gameplay. This is a simple variant but it results in all sorts of complicated effects from banning the same districts that normally occupy much of the city planning. No specialty districts means no religion, obviously; the player could get one via Stonehenge but would have no way ever to train missionaries without Holy Site districts. No Campuses means that science output will be strictly limited, with no libraries or universities or Rationalism policy to boost them. Ditto for no Theatre districts providing culture, and the Meritocracy policy becomes pointless with no districts in play. Furthermore, without Commercial districts or Harbors the player is limited to a single trade route, and gold income will be difficult to come by. Even something as simple as building roads through the player's territory becomes a challenge with only a single trader. And that's to say nothing of playing the game without getting any Great Person points (beyond the weak Wildcard policy options) and being completely unable to fulfill more than half of the game's tech and culture boosts, which rely on districts or district buildings in some fashion. The true cost of researching most of the techs and civics is significantly higher under this variant since the 50% discount is impossible to achieve in so many cases.

It would be challenging enough to win under these restrictions but I wanted to make it harder still. Since the AI is so helpless when it comes to combat in Civ6, I added a self-imposed restriction that I would never attack the AI civs or capture any of their cities. The city states would be fair game and I would be free to defend myself, but I would never invade their territory or snatch any of their settlers/builders. This variant would be a bit of a joke if I simply ran over all of my opponents and got around the variant restrictions in that fashion. I wanted to demonstrate that I could out-build and out-develop the AI civs without having any districts at all, not smash them into submission. Instead, my goal would be to win via the spaceship. Let's take this all the way to the end of the tech tree and see if I could launch for space before any of my AI rivals. (As a point of clarity, Aqueducts and Spaceports are not specialty districts, with both of them having a different cost structure than the other districts, and they would both be allowed for this variant. Obviously a spaceship win would be impossible without Spaceport districts.) And finally, to make things interesting, I planned to play the game on Deity difficulty. I had never tried a game on Deity as yet in Civ6 and this would represent the truest test of the variant. Therefore this became the Deity Space Race version of the No District Challenge. If I could win under these rules then it would demonstrate that I was effectively finished with Civ6 as a Single Player game.

I went with basic settings for this venture. I selected my preferred Small map size along with Continents and four AI opponents, one less than the default number of five to clear out a bit more room on the map. I was mostly hoping that I would avoid a situation with an AI leader right on top of me, which could force a map reroll. I would need at least a little open space for this variant, not my civ and an AI squeezed together into a sardine can. I used my normal settings of a New world age for more hills and a Wet climate for additional forest/jungle tiles. I've found that these settings simply make the Civ6 maps more fun to play, as there are more sources of production available. The default map settings produce way too many stretches of empty flat ground and cities that don't have enough production to build anything. Unlike my normal games, I also picked Abundant resources for this map to provide more luxuries and more bonus resources for harvesting down the road. I had a feeling that I'd need a lot of both to make this variant work.

Gilgamesh of Sumeria was my leader choice, for reasons that will become apparent in time if the reader hasn't guessed them already. The very first map that I rolled delivered this beautiful starting position, on a forested plains hill tile with a 5 food sugar resource in the first ring. There were salt and dyes resources nearby along with another sugar and whales out in the ocean, already four different luxuries to connect later on. Best of all, there was a stone resource in the first ring and several forests/jungles to chop for their production yields along with hills a plenty for mining. The only thing missing was a farmable resource for the Irrigation boost but I could live without that. I went ahead and founded my capital on the starting tile. Initial research went into Mining while the first build was the Sumerican unique unit War Cart.

The map kept on giving as I was the first to meet a city state on Turn 6, and best of all it was a Cultural type:

Out of the six different types of city states, Cultural ones are almost always the best to meet in the opening turns. This is because culture is the hardest commodity to acquire in the early turns; meeting Vilnius more than doubled my total cultural output from 1.7 to 3.7 per turn. Scientific city states are also fantastic because they nearly double your beaker output, although population growth provides much more science (0.7 beakers) than culture (0.3 culture) so a flat 2 culture is worth more than a flat 2 beakers. Militaristic city states are great as well because the early game is typically spent building units, but again, it's easier to get 2 production than it is to get 2 beakers or 2 culture. Religious city states can be good because they allow the player to select an early pantheon, and also allow the player to skip running the crummy God King policy. In this game, I was able to run the superior Urban Planning because the dyes resource at the capital had +1 faith as part of its tile yield, very nice indeed. Commercial city states tend to be awesome in the long run to power up Commercial districts while not being all that useful in the early game. The big losers are the Industrial city states, which are almost worthless in terms of the initial envoy bonus. 2 production on non-units just doesn't come into play very much in the early game, and by the time it's useful the capital is already getting much more production from tiles. Anyway, the main point is that this was a truly lucky find, the best that I could have hoped for. This looked like a rich and fertile homeland for the Sumerian people.

One funny thing that I need to point out: the Vilnius city state quest was to trigger an inspiration for State Workforce. What's that inspiration again? "Build a specialty district." Not going to happen in this game!

Naturally after writing about all of the different city state types, the next one that I found (via settler lens scouting) was the Industrial city state of Toronto. Well, better to find them first and score the free envoy than have one of the AI civs claim it. This looked like a definite target for conquest down the road. Back at home, my capital city was growing like a weed thanks to that very nice 5 food sugar resource. The only tile that could be improved at Uruk was the stone tile, and that wasn't enough to make training an early builder worthwhile. As a result, I opted to follow up the initial war cart with a settler, with the hopes of laying claim to some of the strong nearby land as fast as possible. My warrior had already cleared out a barbarian camp near Vilnius and I thought it was safe enough for the moment to squeeze out the cheap first settler. It finished on Turn 18 and began the slow walk through the jungles over to the location I had picked out near a pair of horse resources.

I had thought that I might be alone on an island when I didn't spot any units from rival civilizations, especially since I met both of those city states before anyone else. This turned out not to be the case, however, as I encountered Philip of Spain in the southeast beyond the borders of Toronto. I took advantage of the initial meeting to send him a delegation in the hopes of boosting relations a bit. The diplomatic gameplay is stacked against you on the higher difficulty levels, as the AIs on Deity start out at -7 relations. It's worthwhile to spend 25 gold to cut that down to a penalty of only -4 relations, and you'd better do it on the first turn of contact while the AI leader will still accept the delegation. Philip's AI personality is much like Isabella in Civ4, as he is obsessed with religion and will spam your territory with endless missionaries. I was happy to leave him to the religious gameplay; my goal would be to ensure Sumerian control over the disputed lands between us.

Back at home, I followed up the settler with a builder in the hopes of scoring the Craftsmanship boost by improving three tiles. Therefore it was a bit irritating to see these barbarians show on Turn 22 along the northern frontier. I hadn't scouted in that direction because there was clearly an ocean to my north and my east; in fact, scouting of the terrain with the appeal lens showed that every tile up there was coastal except the two tiles where the barbarian warriors were standing. I figured that the land came to a dead end and there was nothing more to be found in that direction. The presence of these barbarians suggested that my hunch was wrong. These two warriors weren't that bad, although I did start building another war cart to have a unit on hand to push them back.

Things escalated from this point in a hurry:

A real hurry. Where did all of those barbarians come from?! Evidently there was more land than I'd first suspected in the northeast out beyond the fog. If I'd known that, I never would have sent all of my units out into the distance scouting. It had been more than worthwhile to find those city states and get contact with Spain, but now my lack of units to protect the capital was coming back to bite me in a big way. Fortunately the river location of Uruk made it difficult for the barbarians to put the capital under proper siege, and Uruk kept healing back 20 health per interturn. Still, I couldn't survive for long with the kind of pounding that the defenses were taking. The biggest problem was the barbarian archers, who could deal damage at range without taking damage themselves. While the enemy warriors would knock themselves out soon enough, I had to do something to stop those archers from plinking away at the city.

This was a situation where it was highly convenient that I had picked Sumeria for this game. Their unique unit war cart is the strongest unit that can be built at the start of the game, 30 strength and 3 movement points (4 movement if it starts a turn on flat ground) and requiring no resources to build. Sumeria has typically been banned from our Multiplayer events because a dedicated war cart rush is almost impossible to defend against. Warriors and slingers don't stand a chance, while archers and normal chariots require researching several techs to unlock. I used a new war cart to attack one of the archers and redline it even as my other war cart and exploring warrior were on their way home to help out. I dialed up a third war cart in the capital to follow, with the unique unit remaining by far the strongest unit that I could build.

Having war carts on hand absolutely saved my game here from the ignominious capture of my capital. It wasn't even their usefulness in attacking against the barbarian archers, although that certainly helped. No, the biggest advantage came from the additional city defensive strength that Uruk gained simply by virtue of having a war cart out on the map. The basic formula for city defense in Civ6 is equal to the melee strength rating on the best unit you've ever trained minus 10 points. Since I had built a 30 strength war cart, my basic city defensive strength was 20. Uruk gained another +3 defense by virtue of being the capital to get the 23 rating displayed above. If this were a normal game and I'd been training slingers and warriors instead, Uruk would have had a defensive strength of 13 and it would have fallen almost immediately to the barbarian hordes. This was the lesser reason for picking Sumeria and it was paying huge dividends here.

With another non-Sumerian civ, I likely would have needed to purchase at least one unit in Uruk for defense. That's something you want to avoid because it's one of the least efficient uses of money in the early game; warriors and slingers and archers can all be built with +50% production bonus using Agoge policy while the rush-buy price is not discounted at all. I had extra money on hand because Philip had foolishly paid me 60 gold and 1 gold/turn for my excess horses, and I was able to sink that money into a much better choice from an economic perspective. Rather than buying a unit, I purchased a monument for 240 gold in my second city of Lagash instead. I love this particular use of gold and I don't see it used often enough in our Multiplayer games, especially when someone has met a Commercial city state and scored the free envoy for extra early game income. Remember, culture is the hardest commodity to come by in the Civ6 early game, and it's therefore usually more valuable to spend gold to unlock an additional source of culture than it is to gain more food or production or whatever. Adding a monument increased my culture from 4.7 to 6.7, a boost of almost 50 percent that would be even larger without the 2 culture already coming from Vilnius. Furthermore, I was about to unlock my pantheon at 25 faith and take good old God of the Open Sky (+1 culture from pastures) to provide even more culture at Lagash. These three sources of culture would help speed me through the early portions of the civics tree, and if you've read either of my two Multiplayer games featuring Rome, you should have an idea of how valuable it is to advance through the social policies quickly.

But there are other benefits to this play as well. It's useful to spend money on rush-purchasing a monument in the second city specifically because the second city will be newer and have less production on hand than the capital. At this stage of the game, the capital can produce a monument in about 6 turns while the second city will take 15-20 turns. It's better to put the rushed building in the weaker city. Players should also keep in mind that borders expand very slowly in Civ6 without a source of additional culture. Population only provides 0.3 culture per point, with Lagash getting 0.6 culture/turn on the interface above. The rushed monument took the city up to 2.6 culture/turn, quadrupling its output. Faster culture means more tiles inside your borders: another dyes resource to plantation (and then trade to the AI civs for money), another stone resource to quarry or harvest, more forests and jungles to chop, more hills to mine. And there's no policy that discounts the cost of a monument so the gold isn't being "wasted" in an inefficient way. Rushing the monument therefore accelerates both the second city's development as well as the overall civilization-wide growth curve. If you have the money available to burn, it's one of the best ways to spend it.

Eventually the barbarian menace was cleared out:

Uruk's health dropped to a precipitous level but the city was never in danger of being captured. Archers can't capture cities because they have no melee attack and barbarian scouts won't attack cities unless their camps are destroyed, which this one certainly had not been. It was a more nervous moment than I would have liked though and this could have proven disastrous with a non-Sumerian civ. The barbarians had indeed set me back a bit, as I never did score the Craftsmanship boost thanks to their pillaging. Fortunately I had enough culture that it didn't matter too much, and I couldn't delay acquiring the civic any longer. I swapped into Agoge when it finished and popped out a few warriors for safety. One thing that I learned from Cornflakes in his recent PBEM game is the value of building a whole bunch of cheap warriors with Agoge. They're great at keeping down the barbarians, they inflate your power rating to make your civ look scarier to opponents (including the AI civs), and they don't cost any gold in maintenance. I vowed that the barbarians wouldn't trouble me again in this game, and fortunately they never did.

I also mixed in some settlers once I finished Early Empire and unlocked Colonization policy. En route to founding my third city, one of those settlers ran into a new civilization:

It turned out that Pedro of Brazil was located off to the east, just beyond Spanish territory across the water. That wasn't an ocean at all beyond the mountains but rather a large inland sea, with the land looping around to the south and, as I was now discovering, to the north as well. These would end up being the two civilizations that I shared my home continent with, Brazil and Spain. Both of their leaders are relatively peaceful and I could have done a lot worse in terms of drawing neighbors. On the other hand, Pedro is very good at chasing after Great People and tends to build a lot of Campus districts due to his jungle start bias and Brazilian unique abilities. He was going to be a difficult opponent when it came to the space race. I sent Pedro a delegation to get off on the right foot and hoped for positive diplomacy.

Adab became my third city on Turn 44 in a beautiful river valley location. I went ahead and spent 65 gold to purchase the bananas tile so that the city could work it immediately. This can be another good use of gold in the early game, when there's a tile with a significantly better yield located in the second ring of a new city. The 3/2 yield of the bananas was much better than anything in the initial ring and I didn't want to wait for the long period of time it would take for the borders to expand to that tile on their own. Later on in the game, I would be able to support a new city with builder labor by chopping out a monument right away via the forest in the first ring. It was still a little early in the game for that, however. This was a settlement that had a lot of potential down the road.

My builders had connected three luxury resources by this point: sugar, dyes, and salt. Since I didn't need all three of them to keep my fledgling empire happy, I went ahead and sold the salt to Philip for his full treasury of 227 gold. This is the sort of thing that can only be done in Single Player, and anyone competing against the AI should be watching carefully for these kind of trade opportunities. (The AI cheats on happiness and therefore these resources don't do anything for them. Luxury sales are literally a source of free gold for the player.) The windfall profit from that financed the rush-purchase of a trader, another one of the better uses of gold in the early portions of the gameplay. I put that trader to work immediately:

As I mentioned earlier, one of the challenges of playing a game with no specialty districts is the lack of trade routes. The player only gets one by default in Civ6 and there are very few options available to increase that number under this variant. This is particularly problematic when it comes to creating roads, as a lack of traders means an inability to get roads in place on the map. I selected Toronto as the destination to get a road connection between Uruk and Adab, while also paving a route down to the Industrial city state. These warriors and war carts weren't just for barb defense: they were also going to be my offensive weapons to capture those city states. I could never build any districts so I might as well, right? And the evidence is pretty clear from our Multiplayer games that capturing city states is the way to go. Best of all, when I attacked Toronto the trade route would be canceled and then I could reassign it elsewhere to create a second road, rather than waiting out however long the trade route would take to run its natural course. I had to do everything possible to get at least one or two roads up and running to speed along unit movement.

I finally had units free to explore the northeastern frontier, and I was left smacking my forehead in frustration when I discovered the Scientific city state of Hattusa only a few tiles further away to the east. Argh, I could have been the first to discover that one too and claimed 2 beakers/turn in the early game! Oh well. This was the third city state that I had come across and it boosted Political Philosophy to completion, finishing off the last third of the civic. I claimed my first government on Turn 50, an excellent date for anyone not playing as Rome:

Autocracy was the choice once again. It's funny how when I first started playing Civ6, I never used anything other than Classical Republic for my government choice due to having the two Economic policy slots. While those are indeed important, I firmly believe now that Autocracy is the typical best choice out of the three starting governments. The problem with Classical Republic is that there are no Military policy slots, and Military policies can only be run in the single Wildcard slot. Classical Republic also essentially wastes a policy slot with the Diplomatic one; Diplomatic policies are much weaker than the other two main types and should generally be avoided if possible. One of the advantages of Autocracy is not having any Diplomatic slots, and the +1 to all yields in the capital is also a non-trivial benefit when the whole civ is making about 10 beakers and 10 culture per turn. But the real draw for Autocracy is having the ability to do what's pictured here, run two Military policies and two Economic policies at the same time. What I was missing when I first started playing Civ6 is the fact that the Military policies are actually very powerful. They contain almost all of the +50% and +100% production cards: Agoge (melee/ranged units) and Maritime Industries (naval units) and Limes (city walls) and the like. One of the key concepts of high level Civ6 gameplay is running these policies and then chopping/harvesting resources to overflow into something that doesn't get the production bonus. This is the best way to construct districts and wonders in Civ6, and locking yourself out of the Military policies with Classical Republic simply ties the player's hands too much. Even in a peaceful game, you still want those Military policy cards for chop/harvest abuse overflow. I only recommend using Classical Republic with a civ like Germany or Greece that get extra policy cards and can work around its weaknesses. This is a place where more experience has shifted my opinion 180 degrees. (As for Oligarchy, it's great if you're doing a lot of fighting for the melee unit strength boost and otherwise not worth it.)

I checked the scoreboard at the Turn 50 mark to get a sense of where I stood compared to the AI civs. Not surprisingly, I was well behind in score and it was a bit disconcerting to see that Philip and Pedro were out in front of the remaining two civs hidden in the fog. The last thing that I needed was to have the strongest rivals in the game sitting on my doorstep. Nevertheless, the barbarians had been beaten back from the gates and my science, culture, and gold income were all coming along nicely. I had three cities established and a fourth settler about to finish at Lagash. Given that the AI civs start the game with three settlers on Deity difficulty, I was making good progress in terms of closing the gap.

Here was something else that I was hoping would close the gap with my opponents: constructing the Pyramids. This was overwhelmingly my most-desired world wonder for the game, as I knew that I would be constructing mass quantities of builders before I was finished. Since I couldn't build upwards with districts and the advanced tier 2 and tier 3 buildings that they eventually unlock, I was going to have to build outwards through heavy expansion with settlers and builders. If I could get an extra builder charge on every single builder for the rest of the game, it would be worth a vast amount of production, dwarfing the cost of the Pyramids themselves. And for that matter, the Pyramids grant a free builder and 2 culture/turn (equal to a monument) and therefore virtually pays for itself. With some useless desert tiles sitting there at the capital, I had to make a run for this wonder. Since this was not a "Hot" map climate and I hadn't seen too much in the way of desert, I thought that I had a decent shot at it.

By Turn 53, I had three war carts and a warrior in position to make an assault against Toronto. I wanted to attack the Industrial city state even though it was the more distant of the two because the culture coming from Vilnius was still notably helping my civics research, and pushing my borders forwards towards Spain would be quite useful from a strategic standpoint. I also needed to get a move on before the city state could finish walls, which would make a quick capture impossible. Once again the fact that I had war carts on hand turned out to be critical. I wouldn't have been able to pull off an attack this early without them, or at least not without investing more resources into building military units. Three attacks against Toronto on the first turn did about 90 points of damage, and then I was able to leverage four attacks on the second turn to finish off the city state:

This was a bit of a narrow run thing, as I had just barely enough damage to pull off the city capture. That was with my units completely ignoring the archer from the city state too and focusing solely on the city center tile. In a worst case scenario though, I could have pillaged the farm for additional health so I was probably OK regardless. Taking control of Toronto provided a major boost for my civ, with science going up by 4 beakers/turn after the interface updated to reflect the addition of six more population points. The city came with the full assortment of buildings too: granary, monument, and water mill. They were easily repaired to get the city up and running once again. In fact, if I had waited too long to capture Toronto I would have had to burn it down: no specialty districts allowed. Once the city built an Industrial district, I would have been forced to raze it.

I wasn't the only one putting city states to the sword: my exploring warrior came across Pedro in the final stages of his conquest of Muscat. It sent me a quest and then disappeared on the interturn. I wanted to highlight this in the report because the AI throws a hissyfit when the player attacks city states, yet the AIs seem extremely willing to declare war against city states themselves. It's one of those stupid things in the diplomacy that bugs players to no end. On a related note of stupidity, I was able to sell my excess sugar to Pedro for 39 flat gold and another 5 gold/turn. Over the following turns, I went on to sell my excess iron to Philip for 6 gold/turn and then my horses to him for a flat 134 gold. As I've mentioned before, it's always worthwhile to keep checking the AI leaders to see if you can sell them something for cash.

This extra gold in my pocket allowed me to purchase a battering ram at Lagash. I was going to need a battering ram to take down the walls at Vilnius, which I also intended to conquer sooner rather than later. The Cultural city state had outstanding terrain and I wanted to claim it before a Theatre district could be built inside and force me to raze the place. I also didn't want to have a city state sitting in the middle of my empire that other civs could take over as suzerain and turn against me in a potential conflict. Purchasing a battering ram was not the best use of gold, and it certainly didn't do anything to speed up my growth curve from an economic perspective. Except... there was no other good location to produce the battering ram, which could not be boosted in production by any policies, and my capital was currently tied up on building the Pyramids. Furthermore, if I could pull off the conquest of Vilnius succcessfully, that actually would be a major advancement from an economic perspective, adding an entire mature city to the empire. Oddly enough, therefore, this also turned out to be one of the more efficient ways for me to put that resource sale gold to good use.

I had to pause for a few turns when Vilnius received some kind of era boost to its defenses and went up to 41 city defensive strength. Warriors and war carts weren't going to be enough to take down that target, so I spent more gold to upgrade a few warriors into swords and slingers into archers. Hmmm, spending quite a lot of gold here to make sure that this attack was successful - better not screw it up! While those units were moving back into my borders for upgrading purposes and then shuffling back into attack position, Uruk managed to finish the Pyramids and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Excellent news indeed. I would score dozens and dozens of free builder charges thanks to the Pyramids before this game was over, paying back the cost of the wonder a hundredfold. Spain and Brazil even went to war during these turns, another happy development that I had no part in arranging. This would tie up their forces for the time being, giving me a green light to annex Vilnius and begin settling the southern border.

I also placed my very first ziggurat during these turns:

As some of you have likely guessed, this was the whole reason for picking Sumeria in the first place. Their civilization features the unique tile improvement of the ziggurat, which adds +2 science to any flatground tile and an additional +1 culture if the tile is next to a river. Here's what that looks like in practice:

That one riverside tile southeast of Toronto is producing 1 food, 1 production, 2 beakers, and 1 culture (the culture can't be seen because the interface can only display three tile yields at once). This was the key insight that I had hit upon when I was doing my pregame planning for the No District Challenge: I could use Sumeria's ziggurats to function as a poor man's version of a Campus district. With enough territory available to place the ziggurats, my cities could work dozens of them and hopefully acquire enough science and culture to make up for the otherwise crippling lack of Campus districts. Would that be enough to launch the spaceship first, given that I would also be losing out on the possibility of earning so many of the tech boosts? I had no idea, but we were going to find out in this game. Toronto was the very first city to construct a ziggurat, the first of many more to come.

I was finally ready to attack Vilnius on Turn 66:

Three war carts, two swords, and three archers were the assembled attack force along with the critical presence of the battering ram. Without the ram, this attack would have absolutely no chance of succeeding. (Side note: I don't think that this was a well-thought out portion of Civ6's design; walls are almost invulnerable without a ram present and crumble in an instant when battering rams do show up. It's too binary of a distinction and the AI's complete inability to understand this concept is a major reason why they are so ineffective at offensive warfare.) I was able to remove the city walls on the first turn of the attack and put the city under siege without doing much damage to the city health itself. By the end of Turn 67, I had knocked Vilnius into the red and could see that it would fall on Turn 68. I was going to lose at least one unit though, maybe two, because they were seriously injured themselves, but it would be worth it. However, when Turn 68 began I discovered that the city state AI had proved more incompetent than I expected:

None of my units were dead! Incredible. Note those messages printed at the top of the screen; those are AI attacks launched by Vilnius, not my own attacks against the city state. The AI attacked three completely different targets and didn't bother to finish off the Sumerian sword at 2 HP or the redlined war cart standing next to it. I mean, that was good for me in this particular situation but yeesh, what terrible tactical maneuvering. If anyone's wondering why our community pretty much stopped running Single Player games, this is why. The AI is so completely incomptent at the tactical combat that the game isn't very interesting to play. Say what you will about the stupidity of the Civ3 and Civ4 AIs, but they could at least brute force their way into a defended city with a big stack of units. The Civ6 (and Civ5) AIs, not so much.

Anyway, I easily finished off Vilnius and captured it for myself, no units lost in the attack. It also came with the full set of granary, monument, and water mill that I quickly repaired back into usefulness. Vilnius was captured at size 6 and had massive longterm potential with its many forests, jungles, and hill tiles. I knew right away that this was going to be one of my best cities down the road. Here's where my empire stood in the wake of the city state's capture:

Sumeria had doubled in size from three to six cities since Turn 50, with science and culture increasing to match. That wasn't a particularly fair comparison since most of the gain had come from conquering the two city states (along with founding Kish in the north), but it all still counted towards the eventual goal of winning by space. Capturing Vilnius had secured control over the heartland of my empire, in particular the vast stretch of jungle and forest running along the western seaboard. There was room for at least half a dozen more cities along the coasts and then we'd see where I was able to expand from there. I felt confident now that I would have enough land to be competitive in the future tech race, even with my self-imposed restriction of not attacking any of the AI cities. There was still tons of high quality land sitting there for the taking, waiting to be developed.

With that said, there was one thing that could be a problem down the road:

As I mentioned before, the AI hypocritically does not like it when the player declares war and attacks city states. While they will go to war over and over again with seemingly no penalty, the player gets a big fat "warmonger" reputation hit from doing the same thing. I had done pretty much everything right with Philip thus far diplomatically, racking up 32 positive points in total while fulfilling his "not competing over city states" agenda. We had even signed a Declaration of Friendship, which would prevent either of us from declaring war on the other for the next 30 turns. However, that was almost entirely canceled out by the gigantic -27 penalty for "warmongering", as Philip became angry at me for attacking a city state in my back lines that had nothing to do with him. The diplomatic penalties in this game for declaring war are still far too strong, and that's despite patches that have toned them down over time. (The release version was truly absurd, where a single war declaration after the Medieval era - even going to war to assist an ally! - made every AI civ detest the player for the remainder of the game.) The sad thing is that most of the rest of the diplomatic system works OK in Civ6. If the designers would tone down the warring penalty and get rid of the stupid "era" penalty for fighting in later periods on the tech tree, this system would be a lot better. Never going to happen though, unfortunately.

It all meant that I was going to need to watch my back carefully. This early in the game, I wanted to avoid fighting with Spain or Brazil if at all possible. We were moving out of the early game and into the midgame at this point, and I could only say that so far things were going better than I could have expected.