Realms Beyond PBEM1: Settling Race

The initial turns were out of the way now, and I was happy with my production-heavy capital setup and two first-to-meet city state bonuses. Here on Turn 11, I spotted the natural wonder Mount Everest (which always spawns in the exact center of the 4-Leaf Clover map script) and scored the boost for Theology tech. This quiet turn was a good chance to pause and explain how the Demographics score tracking works in Civ6:

Sullla: Empire score consists of:
5 points/city
3 points/district
1 point/population

2 points/tech researched
2 points/civic researched
3 points/great person recruited
5 points/wonder owned
4 points for founded pantheon
8 points for founded religion

It's unfortunate that the empire score isn't broken down on the in-game screen, but in a PBEM game like this with only 4 players it's relatively easy to track what's happening. Number of cities can be checked by looking at the other player's information on the diplomatic trade screen. You can tell if 3 points is a district or 3 population growths by checking the Great Person screen; if the other player is suddenly getting more Great Person points, it means that they finished a district. Similarly, this makes it easy to see when the other players are finishing techs, civics, wonders, etc.

At the moment, everyone in this game has a size 3 capital (empire score = 8 for a single city and three pop). Everyone has finished one tech, and Teh and TheArchduke have each finished a civic as well thanks to their boosted cultural output. Together with the overall ranking screen that I'll breakdown in the next post, I can tell what the other players are doing with very high accuracy.

One more example from my first-ever game of Civ6 where I have a screenshot of this breakdown:

Empire score comes from two cities (10 points) and 5 total population points. I've researched 5 techs and 3 civics thus far; note how much slower the cultural output was in this non-Rome, non-Cultural city state game. Kongo had one city at size 5 with a district completed along with 4 techs and 2 civics. See? Easy to make sense of the numbers, at least in the early game.

As I've done in the past for Civ4, I would end up tracking the score information in this game with a spreadsheet. I used an online Google Docs spreadsheet for this game, which is still available for viewing at this link, although a close inspection of that document will naturally reveal some spoilers about what happened later on. This score ranking allowed me to have a good idea of what was taking place out there in the rest of the world, even before meeting the other civs. The danger is that you can get too sucked into the numbers, and that can have serious consequences if you end up misinterpreting the limited information available. Keep this in mind throughout the rest of this particular series of events.

Speaking of other civs, on the very next turn I ran into a warrior from TheArchduke: contact with the other Rome!

Sullla: It's my sibling Roman civ played by TheArchduke. He must be located on the northwest corner of the continent, which is the player who will have the closest contact with my territory. Assuming that Yuris has the northeastern starting position with the citris resource, that would place teh in the southeast as the other player who will border me. Hmmm. There are some positives and negatives from that arrangement. On the positive side, I won't have to worry about an Eagle Warrior rush from Yuris' Aztecs since they are the furthest distance from me. On the negative side, Yuris would have arguably been the easiest player to attack after the early game was over. Geographically speaking, the position to the north/south of your start is easier to attack than the player to the east/west, which could be a problem here because I'd rather not attack Rome if possible. Anyway, it's still much too early to decide anything. I'll wait and see whether teh or TheArchduke looks like an easier proposition and go from there.

I also made contact with Scientific city state Stockholm, fulfilling the boost for Political Philosophy. I am going to reach the first governments *VERY* early in this game, with Rome + Cultural city state and the boosts already completed for most of the civics along the way. (I will not get the boost for State Workforce because I have no plan on building an early district but I should get all the rest without any trouble.) I did not get the free envoy for contacting Stockholm first, which was instead picked up by TheArchduke. It looks like he made contact on this turn, which means that I lost out on the 2 beakers/turn reward by virtue of turn order. Argh! So close. That would have been an insane boost to my early game if I could have landed the free envoy with THREE city states, including a Cultural/Scientific pair. Well I can't complain about that, I've been quite lucky in what I did manage to get. Still it would have been nice.

The quest from Stockholm is a bit unfortunate: they want me to construct a Campus district, which is again something that I have no intention of doing. I'll pick up an envoy soon enough though; Mysticism civic awards a free envoy and is boosted by founding a pantheon, which I will have in a few turns. I'll look at making a quick pitstop there after reaching the governments at Political Philosophy, and then dropping the envoy into Stockholm. I have more culture than I expected via that city state, and getting 2 beakers from the Scientific city state is almost certainly worth doing. The suzerain bonus for Stockholm is also really nice: +1 Great Person point per turn for all districts. I'll try to keep Stockholm alive and maintain suzerain status for that bonus alone, plus the bonus for Campus districts is obviously nice as well. (The other two city states I plan to annex for myself. I don't need a boost to Holy Site or Theatre districts in this game.)

Back at home, the builder completed and I started on a settler. Yep, going builder -> settler for this game. I'm going to work off the assumption that my neighbors aren't gearing up for an early rush and try to get an unbeatable economic lead. Rome is of course a perfect civ for this gameplan, as all new cities immediately get the monument for another +2 culture/turn plus a completed road back to the capital. We could very easily be looking at a situation where I'm getting 8 culture/turn while poor Yuris is still stuck on 2.5 culture/turn. This is also a relatively small map, and once the good freshwater spots are gone, they'll be gone. I'd rather be defending that territory with archers in hand and warriors ready to be upgraded into legions than try to take it away from someone else who has it in their hands. My warrior will be back from scouting in time to escort this settler, and we'll see what happens from there.

As it turned out, I believe that I was correct in guessing that TheArchduke had met Stockholm before me only by virtue of playing before me in turn order. (It's a little bit hard to tell because TheArchduke does not have a screenshot from Turn 12. I'm pretty sure that he moved next to that Stockholm warrior on the same turn as me though.) If I had managed to score the envoy first, that would have been a swing of 4 beakers in our relative research capacities, +2 beakers for me and -2 beakers for TheArchduke. As I wrote at the time though, I couldn't complain about this outcome. I'd been plenty fortunate with regard to the city states thus far.

At home, I was taking advantage of the lack of barbarians to go with the super greedy builder into settler opening. I was guessing that none of the other players would open with heavy aggression and hoping not to be called on it. Now that I had contact with TheArchduke, I could see his power rating on the Demographics screen, and it became clear that he had opened with a scout unit, then most likely his own builder. Even with just one warrior, I figured I was safe enough against a neighbor that had only a warrior and a scout, and with the scout likely mapping out unexplored parts of the map. I doubted that scout was interested in trying to apply pressure early on.

When Foreign Trade civic finished on Turn 13, I happily ditched the weak God King policy in favor of Urban Planning:

This took production from 7/turn to 8/turn in the capital and shaved a turn off my settler build. Very nice. I was also holding off on any further unit builds until I could unlock Agoge policy for +50% production on melee and ranged units, which would become available when I finished Craftsmanship civic. Might as well squeeze out a settler now and then build units once they became cheaper with that civic in a few more turns. Anyway, TheArchduke and I moved our warriors around one another tentatively in the central part of the map over the next few turns, while my builder improved first the rice, then the horses, and then mined the plains hill tile. That took the capital up to 10 production and sparked this discussion about my upcoming tech and civics path:

Sullla: Growth in 3 turns, settler due in 5 turns. I had another stroke of good luck: the tile picker randomly grabbed the marsh tile northwest of the rice when borders expanded this turn. That's the exact tile that I wanted, and it was pure chance which one was picked. My pantheon will arrive in 3 turns, and that will sync up perfectly with growth to size 4. Lady of the Reeds and Marshes will add +1 production to the rice and the marsh tile, worth another 2 production immediately (10 -> 12 = 20% more). I'd like to say I planned all of this, but a lot of it was having the good luck to hit some very helpful city states. Not all luck though - without pushing for the Cultural city state in the center of the map, I wouldn't have landed that bonus.

In terms of research, I've now swapped back to Craftsmanship civic to finish that one off and swap into Agoge policy finally. I'll pop out a slinger or two after the settler and then go back into more settlers with the Colonization policy from Early Empire in place. If everyone keeps farmer's gambiting this opening, perhaps just one slinger and then back to more settlers before Early Empire is even done. My third city will be a backfill location near the bananas that won't require much to defend at all.

My tech choice is more interesting. I'm picking Bronze Working next so that I can toss down a very early Encampment district and lock in the costs before it gets too expensive. This is an odd choice to be sure, so the question needs to be asked: why this tech? The main reason is a lack of anything else compelling to tech right now. I don't need Sailing or Astrology any time soon at the top of the tree. I don't want Archery tech yet because I want to build the much cheaper slingers instead and upgrade them later. Masonry and The Wheel will be useful later, but I don't want to finish teching them yet because I'll be able to land their respective boosts, and there's little point in teching half of those techs. The most logical choice here would be Pottery into Irrigation or Writing, however I don't immediately need any of those options either. The luxury resource at my capital is jade, and that requires a mine to connect it, not a plantation. I don't need Irrigation for a bit since I don't require early plantations. I have no plans to build an early Campus district, as my capital is going to do an early Encampment instead for the Great General points. And as far as granaries go at Pottery... I'm going to try and skip them here as much as possible. My early cities will all be on fresh water, and that will get them to about size 4-5 before hitting the housing cap. That should last them long enough for me to tech to Engineering and get my Baths up and running. The Baths are roughly the same cost as a granary for me, and they provide +4 housing and +1 amenity for cities on fresh water, more than that for any city not on fresh water. I can save production by skipping the early granaries and sinking that production into settlers, builders, and Commercial districts.

This worked out pretty well in my test games, and I was able to get the Encampment district dropped on the map (and the cost locked in place) before Turn 30. Then my capital would go back and actually build the thing later on, after the initial settler expansion wave was finished. In addition to the Great General points, the Encampment district also does provide +1 production on trade routes to that city; again, I plan on going Encampment/Commercial/Industrial/Harbor districts at the capital so that every other city can eventually run 1 food / 5 production trade routes back there. And the Encampment district also opens up the very cheap Barracks: +1 production and +1 housing for 80 production cost (along with another Great General point). I doubt I would do this against the AI, but it should be helpful here. After all, I don't just want the first Great General - I'd like the second one too if possible.

Landing that marsh tile northwest of the rice via cultural expansion was indeed a fortunate break for me. If there's one small thing I wish I could change about Civ6, it would be the ability to pick which tile gets selected next via cultural expansion. The randomness always annoys me; there's no reason for it in a serious strategy game. In terms of research, I was heading for a very early Bronze Working on the tech tree for Encampment district and Great General purposes, and pushing towards the first governments at Political Philosophy in the civics tree. No surprise there, as that's what happens in almost every game. I was just doing it a lot faster as Rome in this one. And with Rome as my civ, I wanted to experiment with something that I'd theorycrafted before without having a chance to try in practice: no early monuments or granaries in my cities. Rome gets the monuments for free of course, but I wanted to experiment with skipping granaries as well, freeing up my expansions to push the growth curve as hard as possible with builders and traders and such. By the time I was running into the housing cap, I would have Engineering tech for Bath districts, and that would be enough housing for the rest of the game. That was the theory anyway, and I would be testing it later.

This was a list of the initial Great People available in this game. The Writers/Artists/Musicians always do the same thing, so these were the key ones to consider. That Great Engineer was very nice indeed, essentially a free early game wonder for anyone who could claim it. I would have loved to turn that into the Pyramids or Colosseum with no production invested. Teh was the heavy favorite to land that Great Person though, since he would eventually get access to cheap Hansas. I decided that I would see if it made sense to try for it (I would have some surplus faith from the city state for patronage). I planned to emphasize Commercial districts, and that would give me a good shot at the first Merchant, which had a pretty solid benefit. An extra trade route in the early game is always quite helpful. The Great Scientist was even better, and +1 science per library was a really nice benefit. (Libraries are 2 science by default, so that means this was double the normal benefit.) I wouldn't be getting that one though, as I was skipping the early Campus districts. It was a shame but you have to sacrifice somewhere, and I was choosing to build the early Encampment district instead.

On Turn 19, my civ ticked over 25 faith and I established the first pantheon:

Sullla: Here's Lady of the Reeds and Marshes, the one I've been talking about for the past few turns. Timmy's report on the Epic One game completely changed my mind about this pantheon, which I had largely been ignoring up to that point. There are a surprising number of floodplains, marshes, and oasis tiles on these maps, and this pantheon changes them from fairly weak 3/0 tiles into far superior 3/1 tiles. As good as a pastured cattle tile, as I've said a couple times. On the map we have here, the pantheon immediately benefits two tiles at the capital and a whole bunch of other tiles elsewhere. There are two floodplains at my planned second city site, for example. With production being so valuable in Civ6, this pantheon is another accelerator for the early game.

There's also the question of what else to take from the pantheon list aside from Lady of the Reeds and Marshes. I know lots of people love Divine Spark (+1 Great Person point from Campus, Theatre, and Holy Site districts) but I don't rate it nearly as highly. The benefit on Holy Site districts isn't that great when playing against other humans, Theatre districts are a weak option for MP, and that mostly limits the benefit to Campus districts. Divine Spark does little to speed up the early game, and that's what always matters in Civ. I do like God of the Open Sky's +1 culture on pastures, however this is a weak map for it. There's the horses at the capital and that's pretty much it, very few cows or sheep on this map. Fertility Rites (+10% faster growth) and Religious Settlements (+15% faster border expansions) are both OK without being anything special. If someone wants Monument to the Gods (+15% faster Ancient/Classical wonders) or God of the Sea (+1 production from fishing boats), they're welcome to have it.

Here's the capital with the new pantheon in place, now grown to size 4 and working what are effectively four improved tiles with the pantheon bonus in place. With Urban Planning policy also running, I have +5 food/turn and 12 production/turn in the capital. Based on my tests, this is the best that I was able to do on this map in the early game. I suspect that I'm ahead of the other players (especially TheArchduke with his scout-first opening) but you guys will have to be the judge of that. Settler due in 2 turns, second city will be founded Turn 27 after a rather slow six turns in transit. That part sucks but there's nothing I can do about it because of Civ6's silly movement rules.

Growth to size 4 increased science to 4.8 beakers/turn and culture to 6.2 culture/turn. I'll lose that pop point when the settler finishes of course, but I'll grow back quickly by working the marsh tile over the plains hill for a few turns and getting up to +6 food/turn. I still get 9 production per turn at that configuration which is very strong for this early in the game. Next turn I'll have reached the halfway point on Early Empire civic, and I'll swap to State Workforce for a bit. I will not get the boost for that one, and it will take a bit longer to complete. The boost for Early Empire will complete when my second city grows to size 2 (alongside the capital hitting size 4), which should hit about Turn 31. I actually have a little too much culture here, as my culture is outrunning my ability to complete these boosts. Not the worst problem to have though.

This was a really nice pantheon to have for the PBEM1 map, which had few hill tiles but a good number of floodplains, marsh, and oasis tiles. As I mentioned before, anything that adds to production is worth emphasizing in Civ6. The Religious city state to my south was a huge help in locking down a choice of the first pantheon. Now I had four good tiles for my capital to work, exactly what I needed here in the early game where Roma would not grow past size 4. From comparisons to the other players after the game ended, I know now that I had a major edge in production capacity at my capital, roughly double the production that one of the other players was working with. This was already being reflected on the diplomatic trade screen, where I had connected horses at my capital on Turn 14, while here on Turn 19 I still didn't see any resources connected for TheArchduke. Since Civilization is a snowball game, this was a good early sign that I was starting to get an economic advantage.

TheArchduke would connect his own horses on Turn 20, which confirmed that he had indeed gone scout into builder, and wasn't doing some kind of crazy early aggressive rush. This was enough to shift my plans; I had been thinking about settling further away with my initial settler, claiming territory in a fertile double rivers location near a pair of copper tiles. Now I decided that I would take the close city spot by the bananas for my second city, under the assumption that there was no possible way that TheArchduke could get a settler up into the middle of the map in the immediate future. I figured I had enough time to settle a nearby city and then walk my warrior back up there, where I could block a one-tile choke point on his side of the map and delay long enough for my third settler to claim the region. That's assuming that TheArchduke would even beeline his first settler into the middle of the map, which I thought he probably wouldn't do. But if he did, I could run interference and stall long enough for my next settler (which would come out VERY fast) to get up there and claim the spot I wanted. And the bananas spot was much better from a growth curve perspective, since it let me finish Early Empire civic about 5 turns sooner, get into Colonization policy 5 turns sooner, and then churn out the settlers for city #3 and city #4 that much faster. In other words, I was playing fast and loose here, and taking the nearby spot with my first settler was an act of greed. I wanted to get all of the key land, and settling the first city nearby would hopefully push me to three cities before TheArchduke could get two of them.

The initial settler completed on Turn 21, and I began a two-turn slinger to follow. This prompted a discussion on production overflow in Civ6, which the thread would return to later on; the short version is that production modifiers only apply to the initial build in question, and carry over unmodified into the next build, whatever it may be. Here was a picture of the initial contested region between myself and TheArchduke:

The yellow dot was now where I planned on sending this settler, the safe bananas location. It was the most obvious place to put the second city, although it was a bit of a weak location due to lack of production early on. (In time, three of the four players in the game would wind up settling this exact spot on their mirrored arms of the continent.) The red dot was where I planned to put the third city, and where I was originally planning on walking the current settler. The spot was much stronger, with the downside of being more exposed and taking longer to walk up there in transit. I was confident based on how this game was playing out that I could get my third city up there before TheArchduke could claim the region for himself.

The idea was to ensure that this worked out by using my warrior and upcoming slinger. The warrior will go fortify on the northern white "X" in that picture. The terrain on this map script was mirrored along the equator, so by standing there I could force a potential settler to walk the long way around the mountains, denying the middle territory between the two rivers. By the time TheArchduke could do that, assuming he wanted to do that at all, I'd have my own settler already founded on the red dot. The other white "X" in the east is where I planned to put my slinger for vision purposes; it would be able to spot anything moving over in the east that might be headed my way. A little early game sentry net with just the two units. There were a lot of things that could go wrong with this setup, but I thought it was worth the risks to keep my development humming along.

After two turns of movement, Ravenna was founded on Turn 23:

Interestingly enough, this also confirmed that settlers have an undocumented vision bonus that doesn't apply to other units; my settler could see a warrior of TheArchduke's sitting between the two mountain tiles off to the northeast, then that unit disappeared back into the fog when the city went down. Ravenna was a city with lots of food but very little production, since it had no hills anywhere in the first two rings. I picked it as the only location for a city with fresh water on the starting peninsula, and that made it worth grabbing early on. I went for a builder first here, since I thought I could avoid the granary and didn't need a monument, with the plan to improve the spices, stone, and bananas once the builder (eventually) completed. The biggest thing I wanted this city to do was grow to size 2 and unlock the boost for Early Empire, which requires 6 total population across your empire. The easiest way to get that was 4 pop in the capital and 2 pop here. Early Empire civic opens up Colonization policy: +50% production on settlers. That was the key to my early game, and the population growth in Ravenna (plus its innate Roman culture via free monument) was hopefully going to get me there at a fast date.

I had already started another settler after the slinger, and sad as my warrior + slinger combo were, that was enough to make me first in power rating for the time being. In a Civ6 mechanics note, the first settler costs 80 production and each future one costs another 20 production more, 100 then 120 and so on. Similarly, the first builder costs 50 production and the following ones scale up by an additional 4 production each. Unlike district costs, this is unaffected by your techs/civics researched. It's an interesting system that works pretty well in practice, although in Single Player it's far too easy to shortcut it by attacking the AI and stealing their settlers and cities. For the next few turns, nothing much happened. Ravenna grew towards size 2, the capital worked on my next settler, and my warrior and slinger slowly pushed north to scout the route for that upcoming settler. I landed the boost for Early Empire civic on Turn 27:

I would need one more turn to finish it off and then revolt into Colonization policy on Turn 28. There was even better news afoot though: TheArchduke's military power rating jumped up from 30 to 50 on Turn 27, which meant he finished a warrior this turn. It also meant that he was not building a settler in his capital. TheArchduke now could not possibly reach the middle of the map with a settler before me. My current settler was halfway done, plus I would shortly be in Colonization policy for the +50% production bonus. Settler ETA was 4 more turns, with the city itself getting planted on Turn 37. It was going to take northern Rome at least 6-7 turns just to build a settler, and then the travel time would need to add another 6 turns to reach the middle of the map. I couldn't see that happening. I was now convinced that I would get the spot I wanted and lock TheArchduke out of the river region in the center of the map. At least, so long as everything went according to plan.

Roma continued to build its settler for the moment. My warrior continued exploring in the north, and soon ran into the new warrior that TheArchduke had produced at his capital. I hovered over the odds of a potential combat between them and used it as an example to discuss some of the combat mechanics in Civ6:

Sullla: Just to give you an idea of what combat would look like, here's my warrior hovering over a potential attack on TheArchduke's warrior. The river crossing penalty gives him +5 strength, and then he gets another +6 strength from fortifying. (I think it takes two turns to get the full fortify bonus, so this unit hasn't moved in the last few turns.) That adds up to +11 strength and turns an equal matchup into a nightmare for me, if I were foolish enough to attack. Civ6's combat formula works entirely off of the difference in strength between the two units. The actual numbers are irrelevant, only the difference between them (the delta). The official formula looks like this:

Combat damage
Random(24-36 hp)* e^(Strength difference * 0.04) * Wall factor
Wall factor is 15% if melee attack on walls, 50% if nonseige ranged attack on walls... possibly 50% if ranged attack by walls on units

Kudos to our own Hans Lemurson for investigating and figuring this out. In practice, this means that even small differences in unit strength add up quickly. A unit with 10 more combat strength deals 50% more damage and takes 50% less damage in turn. In this example, my warrior would take about 45 damage while TheArchduke's warrior would take maybe 15 damage or so. That's the power of something as small as 11 points of strength difference. So if you go back into the first posts in this thread and read about how I'm hoping to attack with strength 49 legions in a coordinated invasion later... well, I think you get the idea. If TheArchduke doesn't have horsemen or crossbows or his own legions deployed by Turn 85, he will get smashed. (By the way... the attack I'm hovering over is even worse here, because TheArchduke's unit would also heal between turns from not moving, while my unit would not. I'm hoping to take advantage of this same math if my own cities come under attack in the early game.)

The Civ6 combat system actually works very well in practice, and this little potential combat that didn't even happen was a good example of it. Unit positioning really matters, terrain matters, flanking/support bonuses matter, and even smaller differences in unit strength can be extremely important. The only thing holding back the entire combat engine is the horrendous Civ6 movement system, where everything takes too long to move and keeps getting stuck. Why Ed Beach insisted on this movement mechanic (which according to interviews everyone else on the design team hated and wanted removed) makes no sense to me. Anyway, this was only an early preview of later attractions. There would be other examples later where the combat system saw much more significant testing, and it held up well under the strain of human use.

My settler finished on Turn 31 and began the process of moving north in the middle part of the map. Meanwhile, we had our first tactical positioning dilemma of the game:

Sullla: This was the scene that greeted me when I opened up the save file. TheArchduke moved his northern warrior up a tile to shadow my warrior, and he moved his southern warrior down from the copper tile and next to my warrior as well. This looked like a pincer movement - is he trying to squeeze my warrior between his two units and kill it? I had to sit here for a little while and think about how I wanted to respond to this.

My only goal here is to make sure that TheArchduke can't get a city in this region before I can. My settler finished this turn and is on its way up here, with a settling ETA of Turn 37. That means I need 6 more turns before I can feel safe about winning the settling race, assuming I'm in one at all. My best guess is that TheArchduke is still about 2-3 turns away from finishing his own settler since he completed a warrior about five turns ago, and he doesn't have my pantheon or Urban Planning or Colonization to boost his settler production. But I could be wrong, and if a settler would pop out of his capital next turn somehow, he could beat me to the spot I want by the narrowest of margins. That means I need to have at least the possibility of buying time by occupying the current tile where the warrior is standing, even if the possibility that I'll need it is unlikely. I would feel an enormous fool if I moved my warrior away and then a settler plopped down on that spot right before my own settler arrived.

So I wanted to stay on the current tile with my warrior if possible. What would happen if I did that and TheArchduke attacked with both of his units? I could use the Fortify command with my warrior, which adds +2 combat strength each turn of fortification (max of +6 strength after three turns), and that definitely would help. TheArchduke's southern warrior in particular would have a hard time making progress there, as it would be 20 strength against my 27 strength with the river penalty, almost as bad as the combat I hovered over yesterday when TheArchduke had a warrior with two turns of fortification bonus. The northern warrior would get much better odds at 20 strength against 22 strength, and my warrior would lose some combat strength as it took damage of course. My best estimate is that I would lose about 40-50 health if both of them attacked, and then I would heal back 10 HP between turns and could stack up another turn's worth of fortification bonus, plus still have the option to retreat across the river to the south if things looked bad.

That didn't sound so bad, and therefore I decided to stay in place while moving up the slinger:

Go ahead, TheArchduke: make my day. Of course I don't really want him to attack, and this is all an effort to buy myself a few more turns while my settler moves north. The slinger in particular is a bluff, as it has to expose itself to attack from the warrior in order to cross the river, and I don't want the 5 strength slinger defending against that 20 strength warrior, no sirree! Still, if my understanding of the Civ6 combat system is correct, I think I'll be OK even if he does want to get aggressive. It's difficult to attack across a river into a fortified unit unless you have some kind of a technological edge. And the fortification system is actually quite well done in this game, with the stacking +2 bonus for each turn of fortification. +6 strength is no joke and turns an even fight into a rout. If TheArchduke does want to fight here, he's got to do it right away, because the fortification bonus on my warrior only gets stronger each turn.

The most likely scenario is that TheArchduke backs off or fortifies his own units in place. I would be very happy with either outcome. Just need to buy a couple more turns here and I'll be golden.

Faced with this situation, I opted to hold my ground and put the onus of action on TheArchduke. In retrospect, this wasn't as good of a move as I thought at the time. Although my warrior would have the advantage in the initial individual unit combat, TheArchduke's 2 vs 1 advantage would have allowed him to out-trade me without much trouble. Units in Civ6 lose one point of strength for every 10 points of damage they take (out of their max HP of 100), and so this warrior would have lost strength quickly. Even worse, this unit was standing on a floodplains tile which carries a -2 strength penalty. D'oh! What I should have done is fortified here immediately a few turns earlier, to be in a position where the maximum +6 strength bonus was already in play. Then I really would have been in a strong position. As it was, I now know that this was largely a bluff without much to back it up.

Fortunately, TheArchduke was as unfamiliar with the Civ6 combat system as I was, choosing to move onto the copper hill tile with his eastern warrior and fortify the northern warrior in place. He also offered a "horses for horses" trade diplomatically, which according to past community Multiplayer tradition has been a way of signaling friendly intentions. Based on TheArchduke's friendly gesture, I decided to move my warrior south of the river and back towards my territory. As I wrote at the time, "TheArchduke's next turn will be Turn 33, and even if a settler appears out of his capital next turn, it's no longer possible for him to beat my own settler to this central rivers region. For that matter, it doesn't even look like I was ever in a race here at all. Since I don't need to block that one-tile chokepoint against an incoming settler, I might as well signal friendly intentions back to TheArchduke and retreat south. A nice, quiet border over here for the next 50 or so turns is exactly what I want, and perhaps TheArchduke is thinking the same thing. I might as well do what I can to respond to his friendly gesture with one of my own."

There was just one problem: TheArchduke already had a settler out on the map!

That's one of TheArchduke's screenshots, and his unorthodox play completely threw me off balance here. When I saw that TheArchduke had recently completed a warrior, I assumed that he was still a long ways off from a settler, because why would someone halt production on a halfway-done settler to squeeze out another warrior in a game with no barbarians and no aggressive neighbors? But that's what TheArchduke had done here. Furthermore, settlers cause the population of your city to drop by one size upon completion in Civ6, allowing me to spot when the other players were finishing their settlers in the fog. I had seen no population decrease in the Demographics for TheArchduke, and thus no settler forthcoming, right? However, by coincidence The Archduke finished his settler on the same turn that his capital grew a population point, thus staying at the same size with no change. This unlucky break threw me for a loop when I spotted the incoming settler a couple turns later:

Sullla: Dang it, dang it, dang it. This was really bad. I could have blocked that one-tile chokepoint where TheArchduke's warrior is standing in the above picture, I even fortified there in place to make sure that no settler could slip in and take this land away from me a couple turns ago. I even wrote that I would be a fool if I moved away from the tile and then a settler walked in a few turns later and sniped it away from me. But no, I didn't see any population changes from TheArchduke and so I naturally assumed no settler was forthcoming, then moved away like an idiot. TheArchduke was probably laughing away when he offered that horses for horses deal and saw me walk off in the other direction. What was I thinking?!

I should have been tipped off by the activity in the lurker thread. Everyone knows well enough now to avoid posting "how many turns until your settler arrives?" like we had a couple times back in the day, but there were a lot of posts in there over the last week. Something must have been going on in the game to attract that much attention, and I think I know what that was now. I'm kicking myself for not simply settling in the double rivers region with my initial settler. I had to be greedy and take the close spot first, thinking I could still claim this area with my second settler. I bet more than one lurker thought that was a mistake, and it looks like they were proven correct. See, the issue is that Civ6 has very strict rules about placing cities. They all must by 4 tiles apart, and any location without fresh water is extremely weak in the early stages of the game. You need granaries and aqueducts to make the dry locations worthwhile, and that requires more techs and trade routes to accelerate the development of later cities. In the picture above, only the dark green tiles have fresh water, and any city settled on one of them locks out everything else within four tiles.

Now there was one small piece of good news here. If TheArchduke tried to settle south of the river up there, I would beat him to the spot by a single turn. Similarly, if he settled on the jungle tile where the settler is standing or the tile east of it, then I would be OK, since my desired spot would be 4 tiles away and therefore allowed. I suspected that his goal was the tile where his warrior was standing, which he could reach on the next turn and would then lock me out of my own city spot. Even if he planned to settle south of the river, he would see my own settler incoming on his Turn 37, and he would likely opt to settle in place rather than be shut out. So one way or another, I expected him to plant on the one-tile chokepoint where his warrior was standing, and that would be disaster for me. The only silver lining is that a city on that tile would prevent a city from being founded at the mirrored "Ravenna" location and would be rather poorly situated with the rest of TheArchduke's starting peninsula.

Still, there was no way around it: this was a bleak development. I went ahead and moved my settler forward as previously planned, on the off chance that TheArchduke would do something unexpected, but without much hope. I would just have to shift all my planned cities up in founding order: city #4 becomes city #3, city #5 becomes city #4, and so on. This was a setback but I will carry on and find a way to make everything work. Getting a jump on settling territory over by teh might not even be the worst thing in the world.

The single worst decision that I made in this game was opting to settle the Ravenna spot before the Aquileia spot. I had a free claim on one of the most critical portions of the map, the double river valley on the western side of the continent, and I passed it up in favor of settling a closer and more conventional spot. I did this out of greed, because I was confident that I could land both locations before TheArchduke could get a single city settled. This was based on doing a lot of Demographics score tracking, and I ended up getting completely fooled when TheArchduke built a settler on the same turn that his capital grew a size. This was a needless risk that I took and it had the potential to torpedo my whole game. Stupid.

Instead, I experienced the Civilization equivalent of hitting an inside straight draw on the river. TheArchduke chose to found a city on the tile where his settler was standing, leaving my desired city site available to settle:

I don't think that TheArchduke realized how he could completely lock me out of the middle of the map by putting his city a single tile to the southeast. This is one of the biggest differences between Civ4 and Civ6, the requirement that cities must be at least 4 tiles apart instead of 3 tiles apart. And with fresh water being such a huge deal in the early stages of this game, the number of "good" spots for cities in Civ6 can be quite limited. For future Multiplayer games, thinking about where cities can and can't be placed, and how to deny contested territory to other players, will likely be key issues to consider. TheArchduke didn't post anything about why he chose this particular spot to settle. I believe he wanted this location because he had the God of the Sea pantheon (+1 production on fishing boats), and there was a fish resource located near Mediolanum. In TheArchduke's defense, he also had never seen my settler, and had no idea that there was an imminent city of mine incoming to this region. Needless to say, this was a missed opportunity on his part.

Regarding Mediolanum itself:

I thought this was a questionable spot for a city. The biggest issue was a lack of production available: every tile in the first ring had zero production. Plenty of food, but no production. Nor were the prospects much better down the road either, with some flatground plains tiles and a desert hill tile in the second ring, and that was about it. The copper tile in the third ring would be snapped up by my city four turns after founding, which meant the only way Mediolanum would ever gets that tile is if TheArchduke wanted to burn his whole treasury purchasing it and the tile next to it. The iron resource that TheArchduke couldn't see yet was in the fourth ring and therefore inaccessible. There was a fish resource west of the bananas in the fog, but even with a workboat and his pantheon, that only becomes a 3/1/1 tile. Ravenna looked like an industrial powerhouse compared to Mediolanum. How was this city ever going to build anything?

The city spacing with the capital was also rather strange. Mediolanum was 6 tiles away from TheArchduke's capital, and that's an awkward distance because he couldn't put any cities in between the two of them by settling rules. That left a lot of wasted tiles in between the two of them; I was cramming my cities at the minimum possible 4 tile distance to try and squeeze out as many of them as I could. Mediolanum was also strangely placed given the resources on the starting peninsula. The furs were located in the third ring (and therefore won't be grabbed forever by the tile picker), the stone resource was in the third ring... I didn't quite understand this choice. The one thing in favor of this spot was that it was extremely defensive in nature. With rivers on both sides and a one-tile chokepoint to the south, there was no way I'd be conquering this city any time soon. Aside from the fresh water location though, definitely a bit of an odd choice.

This cleared the way for my own city to be settled on the very next turn:

Arretium secured my control over this critical double rivers region, and hopefully would give me dominion over both copper resources. Although it was a bit low on food to start out, this was one of the few parts of the map with a decent number of hill tills, and therefore good production capacity for the future. I hoped to make Arretium one of my best cities in time. Like Mediolanum, Arretium would also be a difficult city to attack, largely because the city could not be put under siege without placing an enemy unit on the tile to the southwest of the city. Ranged units of mine could get in a free shot at anything crossing the river to the north; the territory just above Arretium had the potential to become a flatground killing zone if I set up enough defensive units. This was a great position so long as I could defend it properly. For the moment, the northern river served as a natural dividing line between myself and TheArchduke, one that I hoped would remain in place for the immediate future.

This was one of the biggest breaks of luck for me in the whole game. I could only thank my lucky stars that my greedy play hadn't come back to bit me yet. With my northern border hopefully secure, I could turn my attention next to the center of the map, along with further economic development. Upcoming next were the first governments, more shenanigans with city states, and contact with the other two players in the game.