Realms Beyond PBEM1: In The Crucible

At the end of the last page, my army had swum across the ocean to launch a surprise attack that captured TheArchduke's capital. Even as this main strike force was resting up in the wake of their victory, I had to start paying close attention to the situation in the center of the map:

Sullla: Here's the center of the map, where teh moved up a slinger next to me for inexplicable reasons. I hope he's not planning anything aggressive here; while I very much doubt he could take Aquileia, he might be able to get in some pillaging if he were to declare war. I'm not defenseless though, as Aquileia's walls can fire with the strength of an archer, and my Oligarchy-boosted warrior has a combat strength of 24. That German slinger has a melee strength of 5, so it would die almost instantly in a fight. I will continue to upgrade these slingers into archers as I save up the 30 gold needed for each.

Unfortunately Constantinople is in "occupied" status right now, which means that all of the yields are cut in half and the city can't grow. This will persist until TheArchduke formally cedes the city to me in a peace treaty (which he certainly won't do) or until he's eliminated. Because food in this city is basically useless right now, I went ahead and rearranged tiles to maximize production and gold, such as working that 1/0/3 crabs tile to help solve my income woes. The addition of Constantinople took me from 6 gold/turn to 9 gold/turn, and that was indeed a big help. Anyway, the net result is that I didn't get a huge increase in beakers or culture from capturing this city, and I won't until I'm able to eliminate my northern rival.

Due to that "occupation" mechanic, I would not be able to enjoy the full benefits of my conquests until TheArchduke ceded the city to me in a peace treaty or he was completely eliminated from the game. Occupied cities cannot grow at all (they sit permanently on zero food), production and gold are cut by -50%, and science/culture are cut by -75%. As a result, while I had weakened TheArchduke severely with this capture, I had not strengthened myself as much as you might think. Meanwhile, the middle of the map was an area of potential weakness, largely because I still lacked the money to upgrade those slingers into archers. Even at only 30 gold each, I was a good bit short right now. I needed to build some Commercial districts and get some more trade routes running, or else unit costs were going to strangle my economy. You can't go all-military in Civ6 or else your civ will soon go bankrupt.

However, the success of my attack had not gone unnoticed, and Germany was considering intervention to slow down my invasion:

teh: Well the cat is out of the bag. Sullla declared war on Archduke, and I'm not sure if he can defend against Sullla (Military score is 225 vs 80). Archduke has 220 gold, so I hope he uses some or all of that to get some upgrades or troops.

It might make sense to declare war on Sullla now, not with the aim of conquering per se, but with the goal of tying some of his troops near my border so that he can't just steamroll Archduke. Like I said, given the current levels of military score, Sullla has a clear advantage of Archduke, so he might steamroll him.

[Lurker question: Think you have a chance of taking Aquileia? Or is the war just going to be smoke and mirrors to tie up Sullla's troops?] I mean it gets harder to take down city walls without proper siege support which I won't have for the near future (the earliest I can get Engineering is 6-7 turns probably, and that's after getting the boost by building a city wall - which I have none - and this doesn't even include the turns to build a catapult), so it would probably be smoke and mirrors. Now I played my turn now and Yuris also brought some troops (2 archers, 2 eagle warriors) near Frankfurt, so I'm not sure if he's going to attack me or if he sensed blood in the water and is trying to take advantage of Archduke. If he goes after Archduke, I might actually go after Yuris now instead of trying to keep Sullla busy. If Yuris goes after me, well I think I have enough archers in the middle to deflect any possible attacks at the moment, so I'm not that worried about that. In a sense, I might actually want Yuris to go after Archduke so that I can do an attack of opportunity on him (Yuris) myself.

Teh's German civ was therefore considering an attack against me at Aquileia, not so much to capture territory as to slow me down. It made perfect sense from a metagaming perspective, as teh (who was emerging as the clear second place civ in this game) could not allow me to run away with the game by absorbing the cities in northern Rome. Then there was also the presence of those four Aztec units wandering around at the top of the map, two Eagle Warriors and two archers. These units could be potential players in this bubbling brew at the center of the map, either by striking at Frankfurt, or Arpinum, or even at the city state of Stockholm further north. I couldn't see any of this at the moment, but worried greatly about other players attacking me while my army was engaged with TheArchduke.

Up on the northern front, the TheArchduke moved no units towards me out of the fog on the following turn. I decided to move on the little city of Cumae with my legion and horseman. So just how much damage did one of my super buff legions do against a city with zero defenses?

A lot, as it turns out. I pasted the information from mousing over the attack down there at the bottom to display the strength differential, strength 49 against strength 10. That would be enough to one-shot a unit (since units only have 100 HP), and the city took 115 damage from this assault. My legion took 8 damage. Yikes. Well, barring some kind of drastic change, Cumae would fall next turn.

On the very next turn, my fears became manifest as teh declared war and moved in against Aquileia:

teh: Next thing, I declare war on Sullla. He might run away with the game if he conquers Archduke without any interruptions from me or Yuris, so I had to do it. The war boosts Defensive Tactics civic, making it due in 2 turns now. As my opening moves, I shoot the warrior and the slinger (the red arrows). They are heavily damaged now. These 3 archers are far enough that they can't be attacked by the city center. I move the 2 archers out of Frankfurt and Mainz so that they can move on next turn south or north depending on what I need to do. I'm still wary of a declaration of war from Yuris, so the warrior sits NE of Frankfurt. The slinger withdraws inside my borders so that I can upgrade it next turn. Like I said before, it will be hard to capture Aquileia without some siege support (catapults), but that doesn't mean I can't harass Sullla with my archers here.

Here was the perspective from my point of view, and my immediate reaction on the same turn:

Sullla: Oh teh, why do you have to be good at this game? Now I know why the lurker thread has been buzzing so much for the past few days. I thought it was due to my attack on TheArchduke, and I'm sure that's part of it, but now I can see that teh was planning his own attack on me. I wonder if this was premeditated or a reaction to my capturing of TheArchduke's capital (thus demonstrating that the bulk of my army was off elsewhere)? My guess is that teh reacted to my own attack rather than having an invasion planned ahead of time; he correctly realizes that if he sits back and does nothing, I'm going to take all of northern Rome and effectively seal this game. I can't fault teh at all, even if it does make my life a lot more stressful here. A nice decision on his side.

Fortunately, I planned for this scenario. There's a reason why I went to the trouble of building those city walls in Aquileia, and it was for exactly this situation: an attack against my flank while my main army was off in northen Rome. Teh used his turn to fire with three archers, two against my northern warrior and one against my southern slinger. (I should have had the slinger in a more defensive position, although I wasn't expecting to be attacked.) The warrior would have died without the Oligarchy bonus so props there for my government choice. I also had the good news to finish Feudalism civic this turn, and that allowed me to make a policy swap:

Conscription was a mandatory choice in the Military slot, or else my income would go negative from all my units. Similarly, I wanted Serfdom here for the builder that's about to pop out of Ravenna. As much as I hated to give up Urban Planning, I think this was the right decision for at least the next few turns. In the Diplomatic slot, I picked up Diplomatic League to get the 2 for 1 envoy policy, and then I grabbed Bastion in the Wildcard policy. If you're looking to defend a city that has walls in place, this is the one-stop shop for protection. Let's see teh try to break through my city defenses with his archers after adding another +6 defensive strength and +5 ranged strength to Aquileia.

I would also have liked to slot in Agoge policy here for the +50% production bonus to Ancient/Classical ranged and melee units. Unfortunately, that policy was obsoleted by my discovery of Feudalism, replaced by Feudal Contract. That's a real pain, although I don't know that I could have afforded a slot for Agoge anyway right now. Too bad I'm not Germany with that extra Military card.

I'll deal with teh in a minute. First things first, let's move the units up in northern Rome. Cumae was very easily captured by the same legion that attacked the city last turn, with another attack dealing 150 damage and the legion taking all of 5 damage in return. Strength 48 against strength 5, yeouch. I actually had a bad dice roll last turn, if you go back and look at the expected damage versus the result. This was more in line with what was supposed to happen. One turn of healing will bring that legion back to full health again, and then it's time to head further east and continue the push.

Since the horseman wasn't needed at Cumae, it was able to push over to the east to the next city of Lugdunum. My other legions and the Great General followed accordingly:

Note that the iron resource over here has already been mined. That tends to confirm my suspicion that TheArchduke has finished Iron Working as a tech, although I also think he doesn't have the gold right now to upgrade a warrior to a legion. Perhaps he's building one in Mediolanum or Arpinum. Regardless of what he's doing, I need to move quickly and get these units back down to deal with Germany. I can only attack with two units against Lugdunum next turn because the Great General couldn't quite make it into the position I wanted, but I think attacks from the legion and the horseman will be enough when boosted by the Great General. That's assuming that Lugdunum remains at 10 strength, naturally. The legion should do roughly 125 damage on the first attack, and the horseman should be able to do the other 75 damage needed.

I made a tactical mistake with the southernmost legion. I moved it onto the stone tile, where it's in range of an archer that TheArchduke has on the bananas tile. Now I couldn't see the archer when I moved there, but my galley is sitting just outside Mediolanum's borders, and when I moved it up for scouting, the archer was revealed. I should have moved the galley first before the legions; doing things the other way around was silly. The saving grace is that a ranged attack at 25 strenth shouldn't do very much damage against a legion at 49 defensive strength. The power differential of 24 points should cut that down to about 10-15 points of damage. I also can't remember if archers can shoot over jungle tiles; if they can't shoot over jungles, then I'm fine here. (If the Archduke wants to move northeast of the bananas to shoot me, he's going to have a very very dead archer unit.) Actually... can you still move along enemy roads in Civ6? I seem to remember that you can do that in this game, which makes no sense at all, but I think that's the case. If it's true, then I can move up on the road and slaughter that archer even on its current tile. One way or another, we'll learn a bit more about the tactics of combat here next turn. So maybe this wasn't a tactical error, but rather a cunning bait for a trap. Yeah, we'll go with that.

At Aquileia, I pulled back my damaged units out of range of teh's archers. The healthy slinger moved into the city to be upgraded into an archer next turn. Too bad I was 3 gold short this turn, it would have been handy to have the archer ready for next turn. I also swapped Arretium and Aquileia onto archers, because all the districts in the world aren't going to help if I get run over by enemy units. Now here's the thing about teh's army composition. I've been tracking it thus far, and I'm pretty sure he has 1 warrior and about 5 or 6 archers. That's a strong defensive army, but it's not too good for actually attacking someone. In particular, without melee units to put a city under siege, it's really hard to capture anything because the city will just keep healing between turns. Archers also get a significant penalty when attacking cities; I went back and looked at a screenshot from my very first Civ6 game in Adventure One, where my crossbows were shooting the Roman capital (heh) with a -17 combat strength penalty. Archers get something similar; it's probably a penalty of -10 combat strength, something along those lines. [Note: archers also get the same -17 attack penalty against cities.] So my city has a defensive strength of 38, and teh's archers can only attack it at a combat strength of roughly 10-15. They will do almost no damage, and without melee units to siege the city, that damage will quickly heal back. Meanwhile, I have my own walls to shoot back at the attackers, which will fire back at 30 strength (walls do damage equal to your best ranged unit = archer at strength 25, then I have the Bastion policy in place for +5 strength on top of that). Plus I'll also have an untouchable archer inside the city after upgrading the slinger next turn. Aquileia will be a very difficult fortress for teh to crack. I don't think he can do it with his current units; if he starts showing up with horsemen (which he can build), that will be the danger.

I made another tactical error here at Aquileia, and this one was more significant. You can see that I retreated my builder off to the west; my thinking was that if I moved the builder onto the forested hill tile, I could chop the forest on Turn 79, but then the builder would be captured by an archer on Turn 80. Well, that would normally be true... except that the builder has exactly one charge left, so it would disappear after chopping the forest. D'oh. What I realized during my morning commute is that I should have moved onto the forested hill, swapped Aquileia to a horseman, and then chopped the horseman to completion. A horseman here would be like a fox in a hen yard, able to strike teh's archers with its 36 strength rating (against 15 melee strength for archers) and then dart away again with its 4 movement points. Sigh. That's what I get for playing this turn at 5:50 AM just after waking up. Depending on how aggressively teh positions his archers, I may still be able to set up that forest chop. We'll see how serious he is about pushing against this city and taking return fire from the city defenses.

Unfortunately for me, teh had managed to get in the first strike and dealt heavy damage to two of my units. While neither one was killed, they would both be out of the fight for the immediate future. I was going to have to crouch behind the walls at Aquileia and hope that the shots from the walls would be able to hold off teh's invaders for the time being. At least his archer-heavy force would have great difficulty capturing the city itself, since he had few melee units available.

Teh continued to move forward aggressively on Turn 79:

In teh's awesome screenshots, moves were marked in blue and archer shots were indicated by red arrows. He moved 4 archers forward this turn, three of which were able to shoot at Aquileia's city center (though not for any major damage). He also upgraded a slinger (circled in orange) to an archer. Elsewhere, teh claimed the first Great Scientist of the game in Hypatia, boosting Education tech and providing a free library along with a permanent +1 science to all German libraries. Teh would still need to finish a Campus district to use Hypatia, which he was building back at his capital. This was a major succeess for him, and would be a key advantage in a long game.

I was confronted with another new challenge on my next turn:

Sullla: I'll start with the northern front first. Capturing Cumae was enough to earn this legion a promotion, and I realized that I could save a turn of healing by moving southwest onto the wheat and then promoting. It's often a good idea to save the promotions in Civ6 because units heal back 50 HP upon promotion, which can be very powerful in combat. However, the tradeoff is that units can't gain more experience until they actually use their promotion, and promoting immediately ends their turn. I actually like this system, although the promotions themselves in Civ6 are mostly boring stuff. I took the promotion that grants +7 combat strength against melee and ranged units (Battlecry); the other option was +10 strength when defending against ranged attacks (Tortoise). The promotions finally have their own unique icons now in this patch version in another overdue interface addition. I'll skip posting the screenshot to save space.

Now if you look closely, you might notice something different about TheArchduke's cities. They're all sporting a huge increase in combat strength, from 10 points up to 30 points. Ugh - that means TheArchduke managed to produce a legion somewhere on the map. Sure enough, I was able to find the bugger:

There he is northeast of Mediolanum. I suspect this was a warrior upgrade; I knew that TheArchduke had two warriors prior to this conflict beginning, and the other one is the damaged unit sitting inside Mediolanum. Unfortunately this prevented me from being able to take Lugdunum this turn, as my legions went from doing roughly 125 damage per attack to something like 30 damage per attack. I should still be able to get the city next turn, but two attacks wasn't going to be enough to claim it on this turn, and without the ability to siege Lugdunum, it was better to wait and attack with everything next turn. It's unfortunate that I didn't get one more turn before TheArchduke was able to produce a legion, as I would have been able to roll over Lugdunum without much effort. On the other hand, if he had managed to turn up a legion sooner, it would have slowed me down enormously; Cumae fell to a single legion, and that never would have happened otherwise. All things told, this could have been a lot worse.

The legions had to use up their movement surrounding Lugdunum. The horseman though had extra movement points left over, and I saw an opportunity to make a significant action:

50 gold from pillaging that cattle pasture. Gimme gimme gimme. I should have researched the pillage information sooner, as I could have pillaged the horses back before taking the capital, and that would very much have been worth doing. Nonetheless, going from 35 gold to 85 gold was a very big deal indeed. It's too bad that plantations inexplicably pillage for faith (what?!) and not gold, or I'd cash in the furs plantation for another 50 gold next turn. For the curious, farms heal units when pillaged, pastures/camps provide 50 gold, mines provide 25 science, quarries provide 25 culture, and plantations provide 25 faith. The only thing I really want right now is gold, since I make that much science/culture in a single turn now anyway. But gold... that I definitely need.

The plan up here remains the same: capture Lugdunum (should be able to do next turn), then swing south and encircle Mediolanum. While the legion and defending archers will make it trickier, I should be able to continue taking the remaining Roman cities with my 4 legions + horseman + Great General combo. I even have the galley offshore to put Mediolanum under a proper siege. The key issue is time; I can definitely take over what's left of TheArchduke, it's just a matter of how fast I can do it with teh threatening me off in the east.

Speaking of teh, this was the situation that presented itself to me at the start of my turn at Aquileia. Teh fired on the city with three archers and moved up another archer and warrior behind his initial firing line. Based on my unit count, this is most of his army in this screenshot; there should be another archer or two somewhere else in the fog. Those three archer shots didn't exactly do a lot of damage to Aquileia's walls, but at the same time, if I'm not able to stop them they'll eventually be able to chip them down and then start assaulting the city itself. I needed to come up with a plan here.

First things first: upgrade the slinger inside the city to an archer at a cost of 30 gold. Next turn, the city walls + archer combination can hopefully do enough damage together to kill one of those archers, or at the very least redline it. Still, it would be great if I could get just a bit more firepower here... You might have noticed that my initial trade route ended this turn, allowed me to reassign the trader to a new location. When I was looking at potential destinations for the trade route, suddenly a plan came together all at once:

The current quest for Vilnius was to send them a trade route. That's been their quest since I initially met them 65 turns ago, and I've been ignoring it all the while. But if I were to send them a trade route, that would fulfill their request and grant me a free envoy, and that plus the envoy I already had saved up in hand would take me to 3 envoys and make me the suzerain. Oh yeah, that's right, I'm bringing in ANOTHER city state as my ally here. Stockholm, Vilnius, and southern Rome are going to lay some smack down!

You know what else is so awesome about this move? The trade route to Vilnius is actually the most useful of the available options! It's worth 6 gold/turn (and another point of culture), and that additional gold income is perfect right now. Instead of 7.8 gold/turn, let's effectively double that to 13.8 gold/turn and prepare to upgrade the warrior in this area into a legion. I just need to hold out for 4 more turns, and I think that's doable.

I chose to have the city walls shoot at the southern-most German archer, which did about 60 damage as indicated in the screenshot. I moused over the result from attacking with the archer inside Aquileia against this damaged archer, and it definitely would have been enough to kill this unit, if I hadn't needed to spend this turn upgrading the slinger into the archer. Why target the southern-most German archer? I'm hoping that the Vilnius AI will be smart enough to attack and kill that unit with its own archer. Even the idiotic AI should be able to attack and finish off a wounded unit standing right next to it. I hope anyway. Don't let me down, Vilnius! If the city state can take out one of the archers, and I can cripple or kill another one on my upcoming turn, that should take a lot of the heat off of Aquileia. I have an archer in production inside the city, another archer healing over at Arretium that can start moving east next turn, a warrior that can be upgraded into a legion in 4 more turn's worth of my new income, and a city state helping to protect my flank with additional units. While I'm still worried about what could be lurking out there in the fog, I'm feeling better about my situation after pulling off that city state alliance. The trade route for an envoy move was pretty slick, if I do say so myself.

I was quite happy with how this turn played out, making the best of a bad situation. While I wasn't too sure how effective my alliance with city state Vilnius would be, anything that would help take the heat off me looked to be useful here. Now regarding TheArchduke's warrior to legion upgrade, how did he get the money for that when he had been on 22 gold just a few turns earlier? Well, it turns out that teh gifted TheArchduke enough gold to pull off that upgrade. Teh never posted about it in his thread, and neither TheArchduke nor teh took a screenshot of the transaction, but that's how it played out. It was another excellent move from teh that would slow down my conquest significantly. I would have attacked Lugdunum this turn and was forced to pause and wait instead, thanks to the city going from 10 strength to 30 strength in an instant.

Now it was teh's turn to strike back at me:

teh: I receive a war notification... but not from Yuris! It's from Vilnius, the city state south of Aquileia. Sullla managed to get 3 envoys there so he becomes the suzerain, triggering the declaration of war against both me and Archduke from Vilnius. Annoying, but not the worst thing in the world for me because remember that my troops are at +7 strength against city states, which I will take advantage of against Vilnius as you'll see in a second.

My most southern archer was damaged by the Aquileia firing at it last turn, and Sullla seems to have upgraded his slinger to an archer there. Vilnius has an archer nearby, too, that threatens my units. Two quick moves later, the archer is destroyed, giving my archer 4 experience.

As for my other moves, I move the warrior next to the city center, more for harassing the builder in case Sullla decides to keep it outside the city, but also to be able to pillage his road if possible in a couple of turns. One archer pillages his horse pasture (red circle), giving me 50 gold. Another archer shoots at the city center, and the recently upgraded archer moves closer to the center of action. Now, if Sullla wants to attack my injured archer, he can move his archer out of the city center and shoot at it, but that would leave it very vulnerable to my many archers here, so I think he'll stick with attacking my other units. I might need to withdraw in a couple of turns if it looks like the combination of his archer + city center attack would be too deadly.

Finally, Frankfurt temporarily suspends its Hansa build and starts building ancient walls (4 turns) so that I can fall back to Frankfurt's vicinity if needed, and also to boost Engineering as discussed before. Sullla has a big lead in science (23.3 vs 18.4) and culture (23.2 vs 18). Military scores are 305 (Sullla), 156 (me), 134 (Yuris), and 73 (Archduke). I also noticed Sullla has switched to Oligarchy for the extra +4 strength bonus. I might switch to that in a couple of turns, too, to even the field. Oh, I also sent Archduke an open borders offer, not that it would be helpful right now, but it might come handy if I want to send some troops around the central mountain.

Much to my disappointment when I read teh's thread after the game ended, I found that the Vilnius archer had not managed to kill teh's own German archer. What a shame. However, it did induce teh to fire two shots at the city state unit instead of firing on my city, and that was likely worth the trade route all on its own. I had totally forgotten that teh's German units received +7 strength against city states, making any serious damage from Vilnius a mirage. At this point, teh had committed most of his army to the attack on Aquileia, and if he seemed unlikely to capture the city itself, he was leading an effective harassment campaign while his core cities worked on their Hansa districts.

On this same turn, the game then swung dramatically once more, as Yuris entered the conflict - against teh!

Yuris: When teh declared on Sulla, and I had all these Jags still in the area (simply because it didn't make sense for them to be anywhere else), I suspected there was going to be an opportunity. I waited a couple of extra turns to make sure as many teh's units as possible were tied up in an attack on Sulla's city, and.... Yeah, that was easy so far. Frankfurt should be mine, then I'll see if I can something about Mainz. Unlikely, but depends how well teh's war is going. Considering he's attacking a city with walls and strength of 38, I expect not very well.

Speaking of walls, I'm very surprised he didn't build anything defensive in his aggressively planted city. The problem with defending it just with units is obvious from the scenario above - they may be urgently needed elsewhere. Although he may have started building Walls, just couldn't finish it, and it can't be goldrushed. The core, as I said, is building districts. I'm hoping to have them done by the time I finish Stirrups, which is a slow research, but getting Knights earlier than other players, with productions base to build them relatively quickly, should give me more opportunities.

This decision prompted howls of outrage in the game's lurker thread, where many of the readers wanted to see a gangup against my civ in the hopes of getting a more suspenseful outcome to this competition. I can't blame them for having that perspective, but this wasn't a crazy move from Yuris' point of view either. Here's how I summarized it in my post written the same day:

Sullla: Yuris, you magnificent bastard! The player who's been seemingly sleepwalking through this game to date decided to jump into the war on my side. Look at Frankfurt, which has lost about 70% of its health and seems likely to fall next turn. That must be where the Aztec forces are concentrated (I have Yuris written down with 3 Eagle Warriors and 2 archers total). Very nicely done, Yuris. The weakness of teh's archer-heavy force is glaringly obvious here. Because teh has built nothing but slingers/archers all game, his cities are still stuck with the default city strength of 10, and as you saw up in northern Rome, that makes cities a punching bag for any kind of attack. I think teh might have been stuck in the Single Player mindset, where the AI is clueless and stacking up a bunch of ranged units is the path of success. That doesn't work in Multiplayer; you need at least a few melee units to protect the ranged units and strengthen your city defenses. Long story short: teh launched an attack on me without protecting his own flank, and it looks like he's going to pay the price.

From a metagaming perspective, this is probably the best move that Yuris could make. Yuris is critically short of territory; he is sitting on 4 cities right now and zero room for further expansion through peaceful means. He must take over land from someone in order to remain competitive, and teh was the only realistic option due to the placement of Frankfurt. So from Yuris' seat, this is likely his best chance to become a major power. However, it's also undeniable that this attack heavily swings the larger picture in my favor. Teh's attack was the only thing that threatened my ability to finish conquering northern Rome and running away as the game's superpower. By plowing into teh, Yuris relives most of the pressure on my civ. In other words, this makes it more likely that Yuris will finish second, but it also makes it MUCH more likely that I'll finish first. Some people would approve of this as making the most of his position; after all, why is Yuris under an obligation to help teh stop me from winning the game? Other people would say that anything other than finishing first makes you a loser, and would condemn this move. I'll let the lurkers debate the merits of this in the lurker thread, I'm just happy to take advantage of it.

Let's see if we can help out Yuris a bit:

I noticed that the injured German archer from last turn had disappeared. Did teh retreat it back into the fog, or did the archer from Vilnius finish it off? I hope it was the latter case, no way to tell right now though. Teh also used one archer to pillage my horses (for 50 gold - we saw that move last turn!) and moved up his warrior next to the city itself. The warrior is pretty much irrelevant; teh is still running Classical Republic government, not Oligarchy, and if the warrior tries to attack the city it will deal very little damage while injuring itself heavily in the process. One warrior can't put a city under siege, and I could ignore the unit for now.

Instead, I planned to target the archers to stop them from continuing to shoot at Aquielia. The city walls fired first and did 56 damage, leading to this archer vs archer combat that I moused over. I mentioned last turn that the city walls along with my archer should be able to kill one of teh's archers in combination, and that proved to hold true. Chalk up one dead unit for teh. Also note the damaged unit penalty: units lose 1 point of strength for every 10% of their health that's missing, and this turns out to be a big deal indeed. 25 strength against 9 strength was a massacre here. (Why did I attack the southernmost archer? That allows teh to send the northern ones against Yuris if he wants, while the southernmost archer really had no one to attack other than me. I figured that I might as well facilitate combat between teh and Yuris if they want to fight each other.)

Here's the overview of this combat theatre after moving all my units. Teh's invasion force is looking a lot less scary this turn than it did last turn. I'm continuing to hold my full-strength warrior just out of archer range; if teh's warrior heads any further west, I'll be in position to attack it. There's an archer at 86 HP that I'm also moving over from Arretium, where I believe it's more important to move over to Aquielia a turn faster rather than wait to heal to complete health. The injured warrior and slinger are moving over to Arretium for a safe place to recover. Thank goodness I had the foresight to get that road between the two cities and speed up the transit time of units shuffling back and forth.

Next, the front in northern Rome:

Lugdunum was the target for attack this time, with three legions and the horseman in position to make the assault. I screenshotted each of those combats and pasted them together here, going through the three legions one at a time and then ending with the horseman. I came up just short of being able to take the city in three attacks from the legions. I'll also emphasize again the massive difference that the Great General + Oligarchy combination makes here. At strength 40 against strength 30, this would be a difficult and grinding siege that would last multiple turns. Without legions, it would be strength 36 against strength 30, barely an advantage at all. It's only by stacking together the legion + Great General + Oligarchy combination that this becomes something approaching routine. Even the horseman has a bit of a tricky fight against the crippled city, since it's only 36 strength and doesn't get the Oligarchy bonus since it's not a melee unit. For all that we talk about how melee units can be underpowered in Civ6, this is their specific power role: sieging and capturing cities.

This is the overview in the north after moving all of the units up here. I moved the Great General over to buff the western legion and give it a third movement point next turn. The units at Lugdunum will need to heal for one turn, but that one turn of rest should get them all back up to full, then my five units can start pushing on Mediolanum together. Constantinople finished repairing its monument, and I've set it to a Commercial district for lack of other things to build. Nothing much is going to get constructed here until after the war is over and I can end the occupation penalty. (These cities don't even show up on the trade screen as belonging to me; they are still considered TheArchduke's cities until he concedes them or is eliminated. It's a bit silly.)

Turn 80 was therefore a critically important turn for me, and a disastrous turn for teh. I was able to take another city from TheArchduke (up to a total of three captured cities now) and kill off one of the archers threatening Aquileia. Out of the initial four archers, one of them was now dead and another one injured below half health, while my city walls were still standing at 34/50 HP. Losing the city now seemed extremely unlikely. Poor teh, meanwhile, had pulled his whole army south to attack my city, leaving himself exposed in the north to an attack by Yuris. The city of Frankfurt seemed all but certain to fall now. If there was a mistake here by teh, it was failing to get city walls in Frankfurt, as Yuris mentioned. Frankfurt had completed a granary, a monument, and half of a Hansa; with those forests available for chopping, it surely could have had walls in place too. This game may have looked very different if that had been the case.

Now for the most debated decision of this game: Yuris' attack on teh. Here were some of the lurker posts on the subject:

Shinghand: Yuris invaded teh - I can't say I'm too happy with the situation, but I think it makes sense as well - this is the best way for yuris to get ahead, also noting that the city is really lightly defended. I'm sure he will get a lot of flak from lurkers, who all want there to be an epic clash between teh/yuris and Sullla, but we should remember that yuris doesn't have the perspective we have. Big question is, how does teh respond?

Singaboy: Absolutely great....thanks for handing the game to Sulla.... PS if you guys are telling me this is how MP games usually play out, then I say, thanks but no thanks...I usually root for the underdog, but if underdogs play just into the hands of a gloating winner...i wouldn't want any part in it. Teh will now pull back his archers and certainly fend off Yuris (maybe retake Frankfurt after an initial loss of the city). Whatever it is, Yuris won't gain much from this and teh will be all but tied up and Sulla can easily stomp over both teh and Yuris after mopping up Archduke. This is really sickening.

Rowain: Yuris should know that Sullla has already taken archdukes capital and has far more power then anybody else. He should also know that teh can't take Sullla's walled city with Archers but might easily retreat and resettle Frankfurt (in caser it get razed). His attack against teh right now is the wrong decision if he wanted any chance to win. He should have gone after Stockholm and then maybe kill off Archduke once Sulla/teh are really fighting.

Ituralde: Attacking Arpinum and Stockholm could have been additions for Yuris. But there's no way he can keep Frankfurt. I don't know how strong his Jags are currently, an Archer in Frankfurt might probably not do too much, but it's close. Also the river and the hills severly limit tehs movement. Mabye the best action would be not to enter Frankfurt this turn, but instead take shots at the Jags with two of his Archers and position another two so that he can shoot at Yuris next turn. In the end this will not get Yuris anything and only help to give Sullla enough time to recover, before teh could do some serious pillaging around Aquilea.

oledavy: Not going to lie, I'm pretty disappointed in Yuris right now. I have been getting pretty invested in the potential for this to be an entertaining game, now..... I would be really upset if I was teh right now. I just don't understand how Yuris saw this as his best option out of the ones available, even acknowledging my omniscience and his limited knowledge. Doing nothing, and taking the opportunity to build up your infrastructure would have been a better option than this, as far as putting himself in a stronger position to win. This is extremely high risk with a low chance out a payout, the bet is effectively: I can amass more cities from teh than Sullla can from theArchuduke. But an opportunistic strike with 4-5 units won't cut it. Yuris will probably take the city, then I expect teh will take it right back. This is just going to end with both of their militaries depleted and Sullla that much scarier.

Molach: If Yuris had had perfect read of the game, he would never attack teh like this. Unless he gave up and went for second place. He is talking about taking frankfurt and mainz, if he manages that he gains him a front vs hostile teh to the south, and then in 10 turns sullla will attack from the west, taking the cities back and ending the game. So best scenario for Yuris is inevitable loss. Even if yuris/teh can defend their lands, sullla gets to pick his win-condition. Instead Teh will obviously fight over frankfurt. Teh knew he couldnt take sullas walled city, just harass, so he will instantly move all troops back with a vengeance. Could even try a peace with sullla (is there some 10-turn peace in game?) Sullla can relax and finish archduke, probably use some of his newly upgraded units to hasten the operation. After Archduke is out, Sullla has twice the army, pop, research speed than anyone else. Yuris attacking stockholm and building up anti-Sullla units was only chance to end up with a different winner than sullla. Which is sad for teh, he played well and tried.

Some of the lurker posts were a bit over the top in criticizing Yuris, but I agree that they were substantially correct. Several of the lurkers suggested that Yuris would have done better here by going after TheArchduke's city of Arpinum or the city state of Stockholm, both of which were likely superior targets. However, as I wrote at the time, the idea behind this attack wasn't that bad, it was more the execution that was lacking. Here was Yuris' core territory on Turn 80:

I defended the decision to attack teh in my thread, saying that Yuris needed to take over more territory to have a chance at winning the game, and that Yuris wasn't obligated to help teh stop me from winning. I don't think his plan was bad either: teh was blocking off access to the middle of the map, and this was a chance to hit teh while his army was out of position and engaged elsewhere. However, this screenshot basically summarizes everything that went wrong with this decision. Only four units attacking, completely cut off from the rest of the Aztec civilization, no followup units being produced, home cities all working on districts. The idea behind this attack was fine, but the implementation of it was not. I think Yuris needed to be preparing for war much earlier than this, to then be in a position to capitalize when wars broke out between the other players. And that ties back into Yuris' slow production issues from the start of the game, which made it harder to be in that position to take advantage of what was going on elsewhere. Like everything in Civilization, a lot of this flows back to decisions made at the very start of the game, settling the capital on the coast instead of a tile inland. Yuris simply did not have the production he needed to be successful.

We'll return to these discussion later. For now, the game remained hotly contested, with all four players clashing in at least one conflict.