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Realms Beyond PBEM1: Opening Moves

Trajan of Rome
Tiny map, 4-Leaf Clover script, 3 Human Opponents
Prince difficulty
Patches Two through Four ( through

PBEM1 Spoiler Thread: Sullla of Rome

At the beginning of February 2017, TheArchduke asked if there was any interest in setting up the first Civ6 Multiplayer game at Realms Beyond. After thinking it over, I decided that I would toss my hat into the ring and enter this game. I had two motivations here: one was the simple desire to play a competitive game of Civilization against other humans once again, and the second was the desire to spark more interest in Civ6 among the wider community. There continued to be relatively little interest in Civ6 at this point in time, which would be highlighted a few weeks later when our Epic Two event ended up getting only a single submission. Without some kind of action, it looked to me like Civ6 was going to suffer the same fate as Civ5 in our community, and be largely ignored by more than a handful of individuals. My hope was that I could both play a fun game and reignite interest in Civ6 at the same time.

Those of us who signed up for the game discussed settings, and ultimately decided on using the 4-Leaf Clover map script. Unfortunately this map script can only be run with four total players, and that meant that someone had to drop out, with Rowain very kindly agreeing that he would let the other four of us take part in the game. This Play By Email (PBEM) game would be contested between myself, TheArchduke, teh, and Yuris. The civ picks ended up as follows:

teh: Frederick of Germany
TheArchduke: Trajan of Rome
Yuris: Montezuma of Aztecs
Sullla: Trajan of Rome

I listed the players above in turn order, with teh going first and passing the save on to TheArchduke, and so on until I played the last turn in each set. And yes, we had a mirror match between two Roman civs, which fortunately Civ6 does allow. There's no limit to the number of duplicate leaders and civs on the setup screen, although Civ6 does not have an "Unrestricted Leaders" option in the same fashion as Civ4. We would be playing on the 4-Leaf Clover map script, one that I did some test games on before starting and discovered that it has very little variation in terms of how it sets up the map and civs. This would give me some significant advantages and factor into my planning for the game. We also decided to play the match with Barbarians and Tribal Villages both turned off, to reduce the random elements in the gameplay.

I put together a very extensive spoiler thread while playing (linked above), and I'm mostly going to use those turn reports to write this summary for the website. There's no need to reinvent the wheel and do extra work for no reason. I'm also going to pull in some of the screenshots and writings of the other players, which I did not have access to while playing this game. Hopefully this will turn out as well as the Pitboss reports that I put together for Civ4, which I consider to be some of my best Civilization-related writing on the website. Obviously this story is told from my point of view, and that inherently colors everything that I will write, although I'll do my best to be as objective as possible. This turned out to be a very interesting game indeed - without further ado, let's get started.

This was the opening screenshot and turn report:

Sullla: We've playing on the 4-Leaf Clover map script, and there's very little deviation in how this sets up the game. Each player starts on one of four small arms extending out of a central peninsula, with a contested area in the middle of the map. It's not a particularly big map, and everyone will have room for maybe 4-5 cities before the space runs out. I've started on the southwest arm of the map, which is a tiny break of bad luck. The two eastern starts begin with their starting warrior closer to the center of the map, located on the luxury resource (the jade in this case). That gives those two starts a 2 turn edge at reaching the center of the map, where there are two city states to meet. I will be heading for the closest city state ASAP, and have to cross my fingers that the player directly opposite me to the east will take an inefficient route there. Meeting that city state first for the free envoy will be a nice boost if I can land it.

There's another city state located just to my south. Each peninsula on this map script has a city state located on it, paired with a player's start. The city state type is random, and I've found that all of them are quite useful to have. Even a Religious city state allows the player to skip the God King policy and grab a pantheon for free, while a Military city state will speed up the production of settlers and builders in addition to units. The Cultural and Scientific options seem to be the best though from my tests, accelerating the pace of those early civics and techs. (I will also likely be attacking and killing the city state at some point later on, so the type doesn't really matter that much.) I found that the city state's starting warrior would always stumble into my borders in about 6 turns, which meant no need to send my own exploring warrior down there. We'll see who we have for our city state neighbor soon enough.

By far the best move for the starting settler is to head inland a tile and found next to the mountain. Settling on the coast is a terrible decision, since that brings a lot of water tiles into the immediate borders of the capital, and water tiles are almost always terrible in Civ6. I'm hoping that one of my competitors will be foolish enough to settle on the starting tile, as that will torpedo their game from the outset. Moving inland brings access to all those four hill tiles, moving them from the third ring to the second ring, and that's where the power of this capital will lie.

I'm opening builder-first this game. I've been watching some of the MP games on Livestream for the past week, and they uniformly open with a double scout start across the board. I'm choosing to go with the economic builder option for a couple of reasons. First of all, barbarians and goody huts are turned off for this game. That means that I don't need as many units, and I won't be missing hut rewards out on the map. Second, we're playing on the very rigid 4-Leaf Clover map instead of a random setup. I already know where my opponents are located, where to find the city states, and where I plan to put my first few cities. There's simply not as much need for information here. Finally, unlike the rush-heavy MP online environment, I don't think anyone is going to open with six straight units and rush me from the outset. Based on the personalities involved and the civ choices everyone grabbed, I think I can get away with an early builder gambit without being penalized for it. (And if my neighbor is planning on rushing me, hopefully I'll be able to see it coming in time and do something about it. Yes, there is C&D Demographics spycrafting in Civ6 too! )

I'm working the 4 food rice tile at my capital to start. That will cause the city to grow in 4 turns, at which time I'll grab the excellent 2/2 horses tile. This lets the capital reach size 3 very quickly as well, at which time I will purchase the plains hill tile for another 2 production tile. This is the one and only tile I will purchase in the early game, since I need the production to speed up the capital's build order. The first builder finishes around Turn 10 and improves the rice, horses, and plains hill tile; there is just enough science to pull this off, by going Animal Husbandry into Mining research. That gives the capital a 5/0 rice tile, a 2/3 horse tile, and a 1/3 plains hill tile to work, for a total of 10 food (+4 surplus) and 9 production at size 3. Naturally this also knocks out the boosts for Craftsmanship, Irrigation, and Horseback Riding in the process. I, uh, may have done some practice games before we started this PBEM.

As it turned out, there was indeed at least one player who opted to settle on the coastal starting tile at the beginning of the game, and this would have major consequences down the road. I started by constructing a builder (since there were no Barbarians in this game), and sent my warrior heading to the east, off to explore the center of the map. I knew that there was a city state just to the south of my starting position, but I could wait for that city state to contact me with its units in a few turns. It was better to get a move on exploring the center of the map, even though that would take half a dozen or more turns. In the meantime though, I continued on with a description of why I opted to select Rome as my civ. Warning: wall of text explanation up ahead.

Sullla: So with nothing else from the current turn going on, let's discuss my civ selection: in a nutshell, why Rome? It's not just a tribute to my longtime online namesake Sulla. The short version is that I believe Rome is the strongest overall choice for an online MP game, one that isn't just an immediate rush-fest at least. For the longer version, keep reading.

Rome has a series of abilities that combine to make them extremely strong as a civ choice. I'll start with the strongest bonus: all Roman cities immediately start with a monument when founded. This is insanely good as an economic bonus; remember, culture now functions as a second tech tree in Civ6, and many of the policies are extremely powerful. Rome gets to those policies faster than anyone else, and then continues to hit future policies even faster, in a classic Civilization snowball effect. Take the start of the game, for example. Normal civs start out making 1.4 culture/turn, and usually it takes 15 turns to reach Code of Laws and the first policies. Rome starts the game making 3.5 culture/turn, and reaches the first policies in 6 turns. That lets Rome open up God King policy first (therefore typically claiming the first pantheon), it lets Rome reach crucial production-saving policies like Ilkum (30% faster builders) and Colonization (50% faster settlers) faster than anyone else, and it lets Rome hit the first governments before anyone else, therefore opening up even more policy options. Rome's free monuments accelerate the early game in a way that no one else can pull off, and save precious early game production on a building that every city will want eventually. Even better, Rome's ability scales perfectly with a fast expansion strategy, which is exactly what the player should be doing in a game that isn't based around sucker-punching the AI and stealing their own cities. The free monuments are simply amazing, and difficult for other civs to compete with.

Keep in mind as well that culture is the mechanic through which borders expand in Civ6. Those free monuments don't just unlock policies and governments faster, they also grab additional tiles that your cities will want to be working, without having to waste gold on purchasing tiles. (Spending gold on tile purchases is one of the more inefficient ways to spend gold in Civ6.) This is yet another snowball mechanic: cities grab resources in the second ring faster, which allows the cities to work them sooner and builders to improve them faster, and so on.

Rome also gets a free road leading to each new city as well as a trading post in each. (I think this is technically Trajan's ability and not Rome's ability; for the moment there's only one Roman leader though, so I'll keep it simple to avoid confusion.) While this is much weaker than the free monuments, it's still quite nice at making it easier to reinforce cities in the early game. With normal civs, I often find myself running inefficient trade routes from a food/production standpoint solely to create road connections. Rome has much less of a need to do this. I would suggest that this is a mid-tier ability for a civ, nice to have if not exactly worth celebrating.

Then there's the unique district that Rome has, with the Bath being an aqueduct replacement. In the earlier versions of Civ6, Rome was dinged somewhat because they had a unique district that wasn't a specialty district, and those specialty districts didn't count against the population limit in cities. Russia could build a "free" Lavra in every city, Greece would get those "free" Acropolises, and so on. The Bath didn't look too impressive by comparison. However, the winter patch for Civ6 nerfed all those specialty districts by making them count against the population requirement, and that was a signficant stealth buff for the Bath in comparison.

Aqueducts/Baths are a non-specialty district, which means that they don't count against the population requirement and can theoretically be built in every city. Explaining how the district functions will require a short diversion to explain the housing mechanic in Civ6. Housing limits growth in Civ6: each city has a housing rating, and when a city has population one less than the housing number, growth slows by -50%. When housing = population, growth slows by -75%. (Side note: this is unnecessarily confusing for no reason. I'll never understand why Firaxis made it so that having 5 housing for 4 population slows growth with that "one off" formula.) By default, a city on fresh water has 5 housing and will therefore start hitting the growth penalty at size 4. Coastal cities start with 3 housing, and non-coastal cities start with 2 housing and will have the growth penalty at size 1! What the aqueduct does is raise any non-fresh water city to 6 housing. For coastal cities, it therefore provides +3 housing and for non-coastal cities it provides +4 housing. Cities already on fresh water do receive the benefit from an aqueduct of another +2 housing, for a total of 7 housing, making them slightly better than non-fresh water cities even after the aqueduct is built, although to a far lesser degree.

The biggest problem with aqueducts is that they are fairly expensive to build and have stringent terrain requirements. Aqueducts must be placed next to the city center, and also next to either a source of fresh water or a mountain. This often means that the player must build over or waste a useful tile, not helped by the fact that borders expand so slowly in Civ6. The tiles in the center ring are often the only ones that a city has available! Then throw in the scaling district cost of the aqueduct (5/6 of the current district cost) and it's clear why they are often not worth building. In my experience, I find myself building aqueducts in non-fresh water cities, but rarely in cities already placed on fresh water. And of course most cities are placed on fresh water in Civ6, since it's such a huge advantage to do so. A lot of people have looked at this and concluded that since aqueducts aren't so hot, the Roman Bath isn't particularly great.

These people are wrong. The Roman Bath provides an additional +2 housing on top of what the normal aqueduct provides, and an additional +1 amenity for the local city as well. Furthermore, like all unique districts the cost of the Bath is half of the normal aqueduct, or less than half (5/12) of the normal district cost. This completely changes the math of the district; whereas the normal aqueduct is too expensive for its modest benefit, the Bath has almost double the benefit at half the cost. I think it's fair to say that the Bath is roughly 3x to 4x as good as a standard aqueduct, and that's a powerful benefit indeed. With the Bath, a fresh water city gets 9 housing (and a free amenity!); add a cheap granary for 11 housing. That's enough to get a city to size 10 and unlock four districts, which is about all that most cities need. Furthermore, the cheap cost of the Bath allows Rome to locate cities anywhere on the map so long as there's a mountain nearby. Even the most arid regions will supply 8 housing with the construction of a cheap Bath, again with that free amenity thrown in for kicks. In my test games, cities were knocking out the Baths in about 4-8 turns and then growing growing growing upwards in a way that simply doesn't happen normally. With every population point providing science and culture (it's 1 population = 0.7 beakers and 0.3 culture in Civ6), the Bath is yet another snowball mechanism to allow Rome to grow upwards at the same time that the civ is growing outwards with rapid expansion.

And then there's Rome's unique unit, the Legion. This is a sword replacement that has 40 strength instead of 35 strength with the tradeoff of a slightly higher production cost. That strength differential is quite substantial, as Civ6 uses a logarithmic combat formula where even minor swings in combat strength have a major impact. 10 points of difference in combat strength results in 50% more damage dealth and 50% less damage taken, so even 5 extra strength does change battles significantly. The legion is also highly useful for two other reasons: it doesn't require iron to build, and warriors can upgrade into them. Like all unique units in Civ6, the legion doesn't have a resource requirement, which is very useful given the uneven distribution of resources on Civ6's maps. In other words, not only does the legion beat other swords, the other guy might not even be able to build swords because they couldn't turn up iron. The player is always guarateed to have access to Rome's powerful unit. The fact that warriors upgrade into legions is just the cherry on top of the sundae. Rome can build (very cheap) warriors and then upgrade them into legions at a cost of 110 gold apiece. The warriors don't even cost gold/turn in maintenance while they're waiting around to be upgraded! This is essentially the new version of Civ3's warriors -> swords mass upgrade, and that very tactic won me several games against the AI back in the day. A Roman player can invest minimal resources into their army, and then bam! there are legions running around everywhere.

Furthemore, the legions can be buffed even higher than their base 40 strength without too much difficulty. I've been reading and watching some of the Civ6 MP games being played online, and the community there agrees that Rome is a monster civ, only equaled by Sumeria and Scythia for early attacks. (Those games are fast and don't involve much economy; Rome is vastly superior to Sumeria and Scythia in any game that isn't decided with early combat.) The key insight that the Civ6 MP community discovered was the power of an early Great General. The AI tends to grab them in Single Player games, and they aren't needed against the braindead AI, but against other humans they are extremely powerful. Great Generals provide +5 strength and +1 movement to units in their relevant era. The Classical era Great Generals affect units from the Classical and Medieval eras, for example, and grant this bonus to all eligible units within a range of two tiles. That bonus takes the legion up to 45 strength, and more importantly, takes them to 3 movement. One of the reasons why melee units struggle so much in Civ6 is due to the movement rules. At only 2 moves, melee units struggle to reach those archers that shoot away at them from hilltops and across rivers. But with three moves, suddenly the legions can catch up to those pesky archers, and then it's 45 strength legions against 15 (melee) strength archers. That's a one-shot kill there. Whoops.

A perfect recent example of this was Icabod's attack against oledavy in the latest Civ5 PBEM game. Icabod used Persia's unique civ ability of +1 movement while in a Golden Age, and with that extra movement all his melee units were able to run down and kill oledavy's composite bowmen. The bonus movement changed a modest advantage for Icabod into a complete rout. Great Generals can do the same thing in Civ6.

But we're not done yet. The Civ6 MP community also swaps governments into Oligarchy when using legions in combat, thus granting another +4 combat strength to all melee units. Now the legions are strength 49. With flanking support from other melee units (located at the Military Tradition civic that peaceful players will often ignore), they get another +2 strength per adjacent friendly unit. If they have enough experience to take the first promotion, legions can grab either Battlecry (+7 strength attacking other melee/ranged units) or Tortoise (+10 strength defending against ranged attacks). Good luck trying to shoot a legion with your 25 ranged strength archer when the defending legion has flanking support and that second promotion option for a total combat strength of 64. The archer will do about 5 damage, and then the legion will one-shot the archer on the return attack. In my test games against the AI, the whole thing is brutal to watch in practice. With a pair of battering rams, even walls crumble immediately. Of course humans defend much better, but if you can hit someone inexperienced with MP before they have crossbows or knights on hand... Well, it should be interesting to say the least.

Anyway, that's why Rome seems like such a strong choice for this setup. The civ had amazing economic advantages as well as a powerful unique unit. In the event that an attack looks like a bad idea, Rome can always cancel out of that plan and just keep building upwards with the Bath district in a way that only the Kongo can do otherwise. Assuming that this doesn't turn into an early rush fest, I like my chances to pull off something with Rome.

From before the game even started, this was the plan: a timing attack based around the use of legions, with a Great General to boost their strength and (more importantly) their movement. I guessed that the Single Player background of the Realms Beyond community up to this point in Civ6's history would undervalue the importance of landing an early Great General, and decided to stake my game on that outcome, as opposed to pursuing an early Great Scientist or something economic in nature. Rome's other benefits, like the free culture from monuments and the later housing benefits of Bath districts, those were just the icing on the cake.

With the early game not having too much of interest taking place, I then laid out a post analyzing my competitors and their civilization choices:

Sullla: Since there's not much going on right now, I'll use this post to do some opponent analysis.

TheArchduke: Rome

TheArchduke has the same civ choice as I do, which means that there's not a lot to say there. Everything that I posted about previously regarding Rome will still apply for TheArchduke as well. My hope is that he won't be able to leverage our shared civ to the same extent. As far as MP history goes, TheArchduke took part in one Civ4 MP game (PBEM37) and it was a total disaster, which can perhaps best be summed up by TheArchduke's decision to build Stonehenge while playing as a Creative civ. Not the wisest choice there. TheArchduke also took part in the Epic One game for Civ6, the only Civ6 game report available from him, resigning after 176 turns because AI Kongo was too far ahead in culture. I'm not going to pile on the poor fellow here (TheArchduke seems to be a really nice guy), only say that I think I have an edge here based on prior game history.

Yuris: Aztecs

The Aztecs were the preorder bonus civ that everyone fortunately now can access for free. (Everyone who owns Civ6 should download the Aztec civ if they haven't already; Epic Two and all events going forward will include them.) I would rate the Aztecs as an above-average choice overall, albeit one that falls short of top tier. I'll start with their best ability for a MP game: the Eagle Warrior. This is a warrior replacement that starts with 28 strength instead of 20 strength. Due to the logarithmic combat model that Civ6 uses, that 8 strength difference is gigantic. An Eagle Warrior will deal about 40% more damage when attacking a normal warrior, and take about 40% less damage. A warrior vs warrior combat will typically do 26 damage to each side; an Eagle Warrior vs warrior combat will go about 36 damage to 18 damage in favor of the Aztecs. This is then compounded by the Aztec luxury bonus: Aztec units get +1 strength for each unique luxury resource improved in their territory. Here on this map there are two unique luxuries in each quadrant of the continent, which means that Yuris will be able to count on at least +2 strength on his units. The single most dangerous thing that Yuris could do would be to rush out 4 or 5 Eagle Warriors with the Agoge policy (+50% unit production) and crush one of his neighbors.

Fortunately, I don't expect that to happen. The players in this game don't strike me as the sort who would go for the immediate Ancient Age rush, and if Yuris would try to rush me, hopefully I'll be able to see it coming and get my legions up in time to counter. The problem for the Aztecs is that there's not a lot for them to fall back on after the early game rush potential wears out. A player who can get 3-4 archers out on the field can shut down Eagle Warriors without too much trouble, as 28 strength doesn't defend that well against the 25 ranged strength on archers, especially when factoring in the defender's bonuses and the awkward movement rules in Civ6. Melee units typically need a Great General (for the third movement point) to be effective. So the Aztec's greatest strength is the super early Eagle Warrior rush, but the starting positions on this map make that tricky to pull off, and Yuris doesn't seem like someone who's going to adopt a choking strategy. By the time Turn 50 rolls around, this early game advantage is mostly over. (And frankly, if you want to go for the early rush, you want to pick Sumeria or Scythia, who can both do it much better.)

The other unique feature of the Aztecs is the ability to use builder charges to complete part of the cost of a district. This works in the same fashion as how China can use builder charges on early wonders: each charge completes 20% of the district cost. It's a really cool feature of this civ and I'd like to try another Single Player game at some point to explore this further. However, the ability doesn't become cost-effective until the midgame, and doesn't truly become useful until the endgame. Early on, using builder charges for district building is a clear waste: 50 production for a builder to knock out 3/5 of the cost of a 60 production district? Not worth it. This becomes a lot more viable after hitting Feudalism and being able to slot in the Serfdom policy for the extra 2 builder charges, and even more so with the lategame policy that grants both +2 builder charges and +30% production on builders. The Aztec ability is most useful for getting new cities up to speed quickly in the lategame, when districts cost 200-300 production and mature cities can churn out builders in a hurry for use by new colonies.

However, that's an ability that plays best on large maps where everyone can place lots of cities. This is a Tiny map where all of the land will likely be claimed in the first 75 turns, if not sooner. In a scenario where everyone has 4-5 cities and the land is settled quickly, this Aztec ability is a lot less useful. That goes as well for the Aztec luxury bonus: they receive 6 copies of each luxury resource instead of the normal 4 copies. Great for larger maps and big empires, but I'm not so sure it will be that useful for this setup. Finally, the Aztecs have some kind of unique building (Tlachtli) that replaces the arena. It produces a Great General point and extra amenities or something like that. This isn't very useful because players generally don't build a lot of Entertainment districts in Civ6 - a modest bonus, at best.

Yuris has a long history of Civ4 MP games at Realms Beyond. Unfortunately it is not a particularly distinguished history; Yuris is best known for starting multiple games at once, reporting for the first few weeks, then disappearing off the face of the earth and eventually finishing near the bottom of the standings. I don't mean that as a harsh criticism, only as an observation of past practices. He is also one of the players in the ongoing Civ5 PBEM game, and here's a quick spoilered thought on that game:

Yuris has been one of the best players in the Civ5 PBEM, and it's been a very solid showing overall. However, Yuris' biggest issue has been a failure to read the game situation correctly, which caused him to lose a city to Nicolae early on, and he continues to believe that he can win from his current position. Some of this is due to the poor Demographics information available to the player in Civ5, but this has been a common problem for Yuris in his Civ4 games as well. (And believe me, this is hard to do - I've certainly been guilty of disastrous misreads of the game situation myself!) That said, in the current game Yuris thinks that he's reasonably competitive with Ichabod, when Icabod in actuality has quadruple the beaker output of Yuris and an entire continent to himself. That's a serious failure of analysis.

I would be pretty happy with having Yuris as a close neighbor. As long as I could avoid the early Eagle Warrior rush, I think that I'd be in good position moving forward to pull off a successful attack at some point.

teh: Germany

teh is playing as Germany in this game, and since he's the host of what is technically a Hotseat game, I see the Barbarossa introduction every time that a savegame file is loading. It's a little weird. crazyeye In the initial release version of Civ6, Scythia was the most overpowered civ because of the ability to construct double horsemen with the +100% cavalry production card and then delete them for insane amounts of money. After that was removed in the first patch, Germany became the game's strongest civilization. Germany gets the half-cost unique Industrial district in the Hansa, which was "free" to construct because it didn't count against the population requirements for districts, then Germany would get ANOTHER free district that didn't count against the pop requirement via their unique ability, plus an extra Military policy slot, plus a combat bonus when attacking city states... yeesh. With Industrial districts stacking their factory/power plant benefits and Germany getting them at half cost, plus *TWO* districts that didn't count against the population requirements, they were clearly the overpowered builder civ. The CivFanatics crowd was playing Germany left and right to abuse these abilities, and I kind of wish that I had tried at least one game back then just to see what it was like. Germany was way too strong and needed to be toned down.

With that said, Germany was nerfed harder than anyone else in the December patch. The nerfs to the Industrial district were a major blow, changing the Industrial district from something every city needs to construct into more of a situational choice. The unique districts were simultaneously changed to make them count against the population requirements, which hit marginal districts like Russia's Lavra and Brazil's Carnival especially hard. Germany was shielded against this somewhat because Germany's unique ability is to get one district in every city that doesn't count against the population limit, so the player can still build a "free" half-cost Hansa in every city if desired - and they almost certainly should do so. This is where Germany gets its power right now, and Germany is still well above average in Civ6. It's just no longer as ridiculous as getting two free districts, and then being able to stack overlapping factories everywhere for a production advantage that no other civ could match.

Aside from the free half-cost Hansa district, Germany also still gets an extra Military policy card slot. This is also an excellent ability, even if the Military policies tend to be the weakest ones in Civ6. Here in a MP game, they have some extra value since it's not possible to ignore the combat side of the game the way that Single Player games can quite often do. And after those two excellent abilities, that's about it for Germany. The civ also gets a +7 combat bonus when attacking city states (whatever) and a U-Boat submarine replacement that comes uselessly late in the game. teh will be most vulnerable in the early game, since he has nothing to accelerate his start compared to some of the other choices here. (Well, aside from that Cultural city state who happened to pop up next to his capital - that was a lucky roll of the city state type.) Think of this Germany pick as somewhat like a Darius pick (Financial/Organized) in Civ4, where the economic advantage of extra production will eventually start to make its weight felt. Production is still the most important aspect of Civ6, and Germany does it very well indeed once they reach their Hansas.

As far as player ability goes, teh is the most dangerous opponent in this field because I know nothing about him. As a new poster here at Realms Beyond, he is a complete blank slate, and that's always a threat. I'll be doing my best to watch him closely and hope for the best. With no early unique units or bonuses to combat abilities, Germany would be the most ideal candidate to hit with a Legion-based timing attack, before the Hansas are up and running. We'll see if geography and the game situation make that possible.

I want to stress that no one has made a bad choice here with their leader and civ. We don't have anyone rolling Spain or France or America, something useful only for flavor purposes of when the player is deliberately playing a variant. All three of the civs here are above average choices, with Rome and Germany being top tier civs. I'm also extremely glad that we all stayed away from Sumeria and Scythia, the rush civs of Civ6, without having to deliberately ban then.

We ended up in an interesting situation where each of the three civs taken in this game had effective power spikes in different eras. The Aztecs were the strongest at the outset of the game, with no one else having a unit on the field that could match the starting Eagle Warriors. There was the potential for Yuris to leverage them into a position of power by attacking another player very early on. After roughly 50-75 turns, Rome would then spike next in power, based on the unique unit strength of the legions and after all that early culture from the free monuments had had a chance to come into play. Finally, Germany would take over as the strongest in the Medieval and Renaissance eras, once units strong enough to counter the legions began to appear on the field (knights and crossbows) and when the immense production capacity of the Hansa districts could take over. This was a classic case of early game strengths competing against later game strengths, and it was going to be entertaining to see which players could leverage the advantages of their civs in different respective eras.

Meanwhile, I continued to push east with my starting warrior as quickly as possible. I picked up the boost for Foreign Trade by finding a new continent on Turn 6, and here on Turn 7, I was anxious to push over the desert hill to explore the center of the map. There was a city state just to the southeast of those mountains; the 4-Leaf Clover map script always puts one there, just as it always puts one next to each player's starting position. I was crossing my fingers that I would be the first one to make contact and score the free envoy; there was only one other player I was competing with, whoever had the start directly to my east. No one else could get to the city state faster. However, that player to the east would win the race for the free envoy if he headed straight here, since the eastern starting positions have a 2 turn advantage in racing for the center of the map. It's one of those very small things that gives the two eastern starts a minor advantage. There was also the question of what city state type was over here; any of the bonuses are good to have, but I thought at the time (and continue to think) that the Cultural and Science ones are the best in the extreme early game. A Cultural city state would take me from 3.8 to 5.8 culture/turn, while a Science city state would take me from 3.6 to 5.6 beakers/turn. For non-Roman civs that only start with 1.4 culture/turn, getting an immediate Cultural city state envoy is the biggest benefit possible, since it more than doubles your starting culture output. I knew that teh had already found a Cultural city state near his capital via Demographics score tracking, and something similar would be a huge help to me.

When I reached Code of Laws on Turn 7 (thanks free Roman monument culture!), I opted for the God King over Urban Planning policy in the Economic slot. As I wrote at the time, Urban Planning is a MUCH better policy choice than the lousy God King policy. The extra production point would take my capital from 5 production/turn to 6 production/turn, a noticeable difference here. I also intended to use Urban Planning quite a bit later on, as it's especially good at getting new cities up and running faster. However, you need 25 faith to unlock your pantheon in Civ6, and God King is the only guaranteed way that I had of producing faith in the early game. (I would be very happy to find a Religious city state first and score the 2 faith/turn from the first envoy. Then I could drop God King on my next civics swap.)

If I wanted a pantheon, then the correct time to get it was immediately, while Urban Planning (and the other excellent Economic policies that follow it) would only be benefiting a single city. God King sucks and if you have to run it, better to run it with only a single city and not a bunch of them. There's also the issue of each pantheon only being available to one civ, on a first-come first-serve basis. Once they're gone, they're gone, and that meant I couldn't dawdle here. As for the pantheon that I wanted, the clear choice from my test games was Lady of the Reeds and Marshes: +1 production from floodplains, marsh, and oasis. Timmy opened my eyes on the usefulness of that pantheon in his Epic One game, and it would be extremely helpful if I could land it here. The rice at the capital was on a floodplains tile, so a farm and the desired pantheon would make that a 5/1 tile. There was another marsh tile at the capital (which would go from 3/0 to 3/1 yield), and several more such tiles at my planned first couple city sites. Lady of the Reeds and Marshes would take those fairly useless 3/0 FP/marsh/oasis tiles and makes them vastly more desirable at 3/1 yield, in a way that adds up a lot over time. In other words, I was taking a temporary hit to the production of my capital by running God King over Urban Planning right now, in the hopes of getting +1 production on a whole bunch of tiles for the rest of the game later on.

I hoped to meet one of the city states in the center of the map on Turn 8, but it was not to be and that turn passed uneventfully. Instead, Turn 9 proved to be a very consequential turn, and as such I'll reprise the turn report from that date:

Sullla: In the center of the map, my exploring warrior moved two tiles southeast and found the prize I'd been looking for: a Cultural city state was sitting there, and I was the first player to make contact! That scored me the free envoy worth 2 culture/turn in my capital, a very big deal indeed this early in the game. Right now the bonus took my civ from 3.8 culture/turn to 5.9 culture/turn, and while the relative impact of that bonus will fade over time, it's going to have a major effect during the first 50 or so turns of the game. (The Cultural city state bonus tends to be better than the Scientific city state bonus since each population point is worth 0.7 beakers but only 0.3 culture. Thus getting 2 culture/turn early on is worth more than 2 beakers/turn.) Now my Rome will accelerate past TheArchduke's Rome and teh's own Cultural city state-boosted Germany. If nothing else, getting here first denies the opportunity for one of the other players to claim this bonus instead. Excellent news all around.

From a macro standpoint, the fact that I made it here first also suggests that whoever is off to my east probably doesn't know the map layout as well as I do. All they would have to do is playtest a few games on the 4-Leaf Clover script to know the lay of the land, since the map changes little on each new game. While I don't want to assume anything, this also appears to be good news.

At my capital, I also ticked over the 50 gold margin this turn. I found out from my practice games that it was worthwhile to invest that 50 gold into purchasing the plains hill tile southeast of the horses. My capital never picked the plains hill tile for this border expansion on Turn 10; most often it grabbed the marsh tile next to the rice. With my capital growing to size 3 next turn, I want to make sure that I can pick up another 2 production tile to get the builder unit out as fast as possible.

Now is it worth spending 50 gold to pick up the plains hill tile instead of working one of the 2/1 grassland hill tiles instead? I think so, for two reasons. First of all, the builder micro lines up perfectly with that plains hill tile in mind. The first builder farms the rice tile, then pastures the horses, then moves onto the plains hill and mines it. No wasted turns, no wasted movement (although this is somewhat less important in Civ6 with the builder charge system). Second, this capital city has plenty of food already. The rice tile will be 5 food once it's farmed, and the plains horses are food-neutral at 2/2 yield (2/3 yield after being pastured). Then there are the 3/0 marsh and rainforest tiles available as well if there's a desire to increase growth. Long story short, this capital will grow fast enough on its own. It's more important to get production up and running, and the plains hill is the only tile that can reach a 3 production yield in the early game. As I wrote in a previous post, I want the 5/0 rice tile, the 2/3 horses tile, and the 1/3 plains hill tile, which will give me a total yield of +4 food and 9 production (with the center tile and Palace) at size 3. With luck, I'll also score Lady of the Reeds and Marshes for my pantheon, which will turn the rice tile into a 5/1 yield, and turn the marsh tile into a 3/1 yield. That would give me four excellent tiles to work at size 4, with no need to invest in another early builder. But I don't want to get too far ahead of myself just yet.

One last reason for purchasing the plains hill tile: it will reveal more tiles to my south. As I hoped, this made contact with the city state that I knew was down there:

And it rolled Religious on the type - yes! That is legitimately great news. Short of landing a Cultural and Scientific pair, or double Cultural / double Scientific city states, this was about as good as I could hope for. The free envoy for making contact first granted an immediate 2 faith/turn, and with the God King policy in place, that obviously adds up to a total of 3 faith/turn. Hopefully this means that I'll be able to land the first pantheon; I know from the Demographics information that no one else has met a Religious city state to date (outside of the extremely unlikely scenario that Yuris met one on the exact same turn as me). Best of all, I can now dump the lousy God King policy ASAP and get into the far superior Urban Planning policy to speed up my early builds. I actually swapped from Craftsmanship civic onto Foreign Trade civic since it will complete faster. I can have my pantheon on Turn 19 if I swap right away into Urban Planning, or on Turn 17 if I hold onto God King for a few extra turns. I'll see how things look in a few turns and decide then. No need to make that choice just yet.

All in all, the path is looking pretty clear to get my desired pantheon, and to pick it up at an extremely early date to boot.

Rolling the combination of a Cultural city state in the center of the map and a Religious city state next to my capital was an excellent pairing, nearly as good as possible. This accelerated my cultural output past anyone else, including the other Roman civ and teh's own Cultural city state boosted Germany, ensuring that I would be the first to all of the key civics in the early game. The Religious city state would hopefully lock down my desired pantheon, and could provide an opportunity for legion-powered expansion down the road, since there was little need to keep a Religious city state alive for faith generation long term. As far as openings go, this was about as good as I could hope for.

Here was my capital on Turn 10 at size 3, working the rice, horses, and plains hill tiles for a total production of 7 per turn. The tile picker chose the grassland hill south of the capital when the borders expanded, which it didn't always do in my test games. One additional nice thing about meeting that Cultural city state was that the borders would now expand even faster at my capital, avoiding the need to waste gold on more tile purchases. Growth was slow at the moment, but the builder was about to pop out in 2 more turns and farm the rice to take Roma from +3 food surplus to +4 food surplus, and I figured that would be enough in this Slavery-less game for growth. Too much food would simply cause me to grow pointlessly into the housing cap penalty. What I really wanted was production, and I set up the capital to have as much as possible without doing silly things like dropping the rice tile for a 2/1 grassland hill. We had a larger debate running throughout this game on the merits of optimizing for higher food versus higher production, and I was opting firmly to test the latter category.

With the introductory 10 turns out of the way, the game was now about to begin in earnest.