The previous section ended with Yuris' entry into the ongoing conflagration, indirectly taking my side by attacking teh's Germany. Teh assessed the situation and began doing his best to defend against this new threat:
teh: The turn starts miserably as I get the notification that Yuris has declared war on me. Like I said, this pretty much seals the game for Sullla (not that there was a big chance of me stopping him before, but still). Yuris has 2 archers and 2 eagle warriors there. Now, he will most likely take the city next turn, but I do have a lot of units here that would be available for a counter attack immediately. I guess I should've started the city wall here sooner, but oh well. This screenshot is actually after I attacked the eagle warrior NW of Frankfurt with the two archer you see SE and SW of the city. In the meantime, near Aquileia, Sullla has destroyed one of my archer, but I managed to pillage the pasture there so that might cause some minor damage to him. I make an orderly retreat to the north.
As serious war is upon me, I decide to finish Military Training (1 turn left) so that I can make a free civic change here to the 50% production (melee+archer - ancient and classical) bonus policy next turn [Agoge]. Cologne and Frankfurt have both grown this turn. Cologne picks up the whale to get some gold, and Frankfurt pick up the unmined plains hill 1E of the city center to get some production (will most likely not matter with the capture next turn). Cologne is running into amenities issue (it's at -1 now).
Mainz has 2 turns to complete its Hansa, but I borrow the mined desert hill from Cologne and move the citizen from the farmed floodplains to the desert hill. This reduces the time to complete Hansa to a single turn, though it also causes the city to starve. However, the city will only drop to size 3 in 2 turns, so I will get switch to the floodplains next turn. Cologne loses the desert hill for this turn and the free citizen moves to the marsh (no other available tiles here). Luckily its Hansa was 1 turn to complete before this switch and it's still 1 turn. With a total of 3 Hansas completed by next turn (Aachen, Cologne and Mainz), and the policy card in play, I should be able to start pumping military out like there's no tomorrow. I'd like to get a city wall in Mainz just in case, but that should be done quickly with the Hansa in place and with the 100% production bonus card for that.
Empire scores reveal another captured city from Archduke by Sullla, not much I can do there now that I'm occupied with Yuris. For what it's worth, Archduke accepts my offer of open borders.
This was exactly what I wanted to see, teh retreating his units back from the borders of Aquileia. Teh had no choice, as he needed to defend his own cities from the Aztec invaders from the north. Frankfurt was doing its best to build city walls, but unfortunately for teh, they would not complete in time. Yuris continued the attack and had little difficulty taking the city, but immediately realized that holding it would be another matter entirely:
Yuris: Well, this isn't going to be quite as easy. teh probably can reclaim the city. He can get shots with all 4 Archers, and while 27 strength is a lot, I don't think it's enough to withstand 5 attacks (and there's penalty for the city being damaged). Nevertheless I decided to keep it - razing seemed to achieve nothing except freeing up this territory for Sulla to settle. And I don't want that even more than I don't want teh to reclaim the city. Was it a mistake? Maybe. Probably not. Aztec game plan includes opportunistic moves like this. I don't have a problem with losing a few units and achieving nothing if that's what happens.
This had been apparent to the readers in the lurker thread before the war even began. Yuris had enough units to capture Frankfurt but not enough to hold it, given that his four units were isolated from the rest of his civ and not backed up by any further troops. This was not apparent to either myself or teh, neither of whom knew how many units Yuris had in the fog. From our perspective, this could have been the initial wave of a much larger army yet to come. Yuris did know the size and location of his forces though, and probably should have realized that razing this city was the best he could hope to do. In fact, razing this city and replacing it with a new city of his own slightly further to the north would have been a strong move indeed. However, there was no Aztec settler anywhere in sight, and the decision to take and hold Frankfurt (which now was placed under the occupation penalty) served to lock Yuris and teh into a grinding struggle for this bit of territory.
Back in northern Rome, I had run into a new problem: TheArchduke dropped two envoys into Hong Kong and became the suzerain, bringing it into the war against me. That was a nice move on his part, and this would have been really annoying a couple of turns ago when the main front in this war was against Cumae and Lugdunum. However, I thought the danger here was mostly passed by now; my units were already moving out of the region, and they wouldn't need to fight their way through that sea of archers to make progress. With a defensive strength of 30, the captured cities themselves should be in minimal danger. The AI wouldn't be able to put either city under a proper siege, so they will keep healing back 20 HP between turns, and the archers shouldn't do too much damage with the -17 strength penalty. Best of all, I was about to score another envoy when I finished researching Mercenaries civic in 3 turns, and that should knock TheArchduke out of suzerain status. (He had 3 envoys in there right now and I had 2 envoys.) I was pretty sure the captured cities could survive for 3 turns against the AI's unfocused attacks. If they were pillaged, whatever, I could use builders to fix the damage later. The worst thing would be getting distracted up here. TheArchduke was my opponent, not the city state. I wasn't going to start running legions off into the northern tundra chasing after random city state units. As such, my units spent the turn healing and preparing to move forward against Mediolanum.
There was another city state envoy shift on this turn worth mentioning: teh supplanted me as the suzerain of Stockholm. The city state was now at war with my civ and Yuris, and at peace with teh and TheArchduke. When I completed my next civic, I would have to decide if it was better to drop the envoy into Stockholm or Hong Kong to end their respective wars with me. I leaned more towards Hong Kong; I was already thinking about conquering Stockholm because it was worth a ton of science, both because it already finished a Campus district and it had the Galapagos Island natural wonder to the north. Those sea tiles were worth lots of food and beakers for working them. For the moment though, teh was getting the doubled Great Person points bonus: 6 Great Engineer points/turn (from his three completed Hansas).
Meanwhile, teh launched his counterattack against Frankfurt:
teh: The archer SE of Frankfurt moves 1E to make room for the warrior, who moves there. The archer on bananas moves to where the warrior was. After that, all 4 archers shoot the city center. The city is heavily damaged, but it's not enough for the warrior to take the city this turn. I decide not to attack to preserve the warrior's health for next turn. The warrior build in Mainz is also heavily influenced by this, because I will need a warrior to take the city (archers can't) and I want to have a backup warrior to do that in case I lose this one from Yuris' counter-attack here. If the warrior survives here, I think I should be able to take the city back next turn, but if not, I hold the production edge in the conflict vs. Yuris. I actually have a larger military score than Yuris after this attack, so I'm beginning to feel better here. I also hold the civic edge (I have 3 more civics) and I should have a better science rate than him in about 2 turns (I already have one more tech). All of this would be thrown to trash if Sullla shows up with some units and I'm trapped between Yuris and Sullla of course, but nothing I can do for that but to hope that it doesn't happen.
However, teh had only been damaging the city of Frankfurt itself, not any of Yuris' units. On his turn, Yuris evacuated the city with all of his units, and when teh captured it with his warrior on Turn 83, Yuris immediately retook Frankfurt once again, destroying teh's warrior in the process:
teh: It looks like Yuris has abandoned the city for now. I easily take the city back. Notice that I have put the commercial hub and Hansa down again in Frankfurt. I might lose the city soon again, but if not this would lock down the costs. Moreover, the commercial hub here actually provides the adjacency bonus for Mainz even before it's complete, so for this turn at least, Mainz will have 2 extra production from that. Since Frankfurt has fallen before, the trader going from it to Aachen draws stops working that route and is available for another route, so I transfer it to Ulm to start a route to Aachen next turn.
First thing, Mathematics is boosted since Aachen finishes its Campus. I activate the great scientist there to build a library instantly and my science per turn goes up to 26 from 22.8. Secondly, I start the trade route from Ulm to Aachen and it gives Aachen 2 food and 2 production (due to the completed campus and Hansa at Aachen). Aachen starts working on a builder (3 turns). The warrior in production in Mainz is out. I start building the ancient walls here (3 turns) to get the boost for Engineering and to have more defense here.
Frankfurt falls again and my warrior is destroyed in the process. I immediately counter-attack. One archer promotes this turn. Another archer shoots at Yuris' archer (ignore the crossed red arrow - I marked where that archer shot wrong first). The warrior is ready to take Frankfurt back next turn.
Teh was slowly starting to wear down the Aztec forces in this region, and in particular his archer on the hill east of Frankfurt had a nice position, able to shoot over the jungle tile at Yuris' archer without being vulnerable in return. However, teh was hampered here by his weakness in melee units, and he was a little too eager to recapture Frankfurt back again. Teh needed to control the horses tile northwest of the city to prevent it from being immediately recaptured on the following turn, and he had no unit able to do that. Yuris pulled a nice tactical retreat, and teh's hastiness resulted in the city falling a second time, with a German warrior lost in the process. Overall then, these two players were fully engaged with one another for the moment. That cleared the way for my army to continue cutting through TheArchduke's defenses in northern Rome:
Sullla: My forces courageously abandoned the people of the captured cities to the attacking city state, heh. Well they should be OK up there, and there's not much damage that those random archers can do. I am taking full advantage of the fact that roads are apparently usable in enemy territory in this game, something that I very much think should not be the case, but oh well. TheArchduke actually moved his forces out of the Mediolanum region and started heading south towards Arretium. I think this was a tactical mistake; perhaps he believes that Arretium is vulnerable? It isn't, of course. Now I can easily surround the city next turn, and probably pick off some of those archers. Only one of them can hide in the city, and they'll be one-shotted by legions in the open. This would be much harder if the legion continued to remain fortified in its previous position, on the jungle tile northeast of the city. Instead, I've moved in and occupied that territory myself. With my edge in numbers and the Great General, I'm confident I can take this city, probably in 2 turns.
Further south, Arretium is now seeing action in earnest. I moved the archer east of the city inside Arretium itself, where it can shoot back without fear of being hit. If I moved onto the copper tile, I could have fired on teh's archer, but then both of the archers could have fired at me in return. This was the safer play. The builder in the southwest corner of this screenshot chopped a jungle tile, and I funneled the food/production into Arretium. (When a tile is between two cities, whichever one is working the tile gets the chopping bonus.) That was enough to complete the archer that Arretium was working on, and so I moved it southwest and fired on the legion. Note how little damage this shot did: only 12 damage in total. It will be even more of a discrepancy for my legions, since they also have the Great General for another +5 strength.
This is the overview picture after moving everything in this front. Ravenna also finished an archer this turn that moved up two tiles, giving me three archers in this region. Hopefully I can get all of them into firing range for next turn. I was forced to retreat the injured warrior back a tile to the southeast, since TheArchduke could have shot it with his archer if it stayed in place. That means no healing this turn, but no damage taken either. The full strength warrior remained lurking in the back, ready to be upgraded to a legion next turn. I could have moved onto the roaded jungle tile to the northwest, and I'm reasonably sure that the warrior would have been safe from archer fire there because it's behind those hill tiles. However, in the event that I have the mechanics wrong, that would be a lot of damage taken right before I upgrade to a legion next turn, and I didn't think it was worth taking that risk. Especially since I made a mistake on the archer ranged mechanics last turn.
TheArchduke's units can move on my roads but that doesn't help him here because the city of Arretium itself is blocking passage onto the rest of my road network. The archer to the southwest of Arretium is totally safe, for example. There's no road tile to the west of the city, and the legion can't attack across the river under Civ6's wacky movement rules. Similarly, only the northern archer of TheArchduke can shoot at any of my units next turn. The southern one is off the road network, and can't get back into place to shoot anything invading from the north. Next turn, I'll close in on Mediolanum and start returning fire in earnest with my archers. This is turning into a large pincer movement, with TheArchduke's units trapped in the middle.
My first few city captures had been accomplished against empty cities that lacked units to fight back. Now I was engaged with TheArchduke's small army, and trying to break through the tough natural defenses around Mediolanum. TheArchduke moved his legion and archers down to the south to invade across the river against Arretium instead of holding back to defend Mediolanum. While I understand the desire to strike back, by holding the legion and archers aruound Mediolanum it would have been difficult for me to attack the city. Between the river and all those jungle tiles, movement here was very tricky. Keeping the legion fortified on the jungle tile northeast of the city would have made it very hard to surround Mediolanum and get a proper siege invested. Instead, these enemy units moved forward across the river, opening up a path for my main forces to strike:
Sullla: I thought it was likely that TheArchduke would use his archer to pillage the district. That was worth 50 gold to him, and hopefully it won't be enough to upgrade that warrior into a legion inside Mediolanum. Perhaps in retrospect I should have kept the district 1 turn away from completion, and waited to finish it until this war was over. Then again, 4 turns ago I didn't have the trade route going to the Vilnius city state for that extra income, and I couldn't have known how things would play out around Aquileia. It's probably fine. I can always repair the district, and Arretium is a city that has plenty of production.
Tactically speaking, TheArchduke's forces were effectively trapped here in the pincer movement I mentioned last turn. They can't move further south into my territory without getting slashed at by archers, and they can't move further north without running into the anvil of my invasion force. The southern archer pillaged the Commercial district, the northern archer took a potshot at my legion northeast of the city, and TheArchduke's own legion moved back across the river. He misplayed the tactical maneuvering of that legion, although in TheArchduke's defense he has much less map vision than I do. It would have been much more dangerous to fortify that legion northeast or northwest of the city, and then I would have been forced to kill it in a highly defensive position in order to put Mediolanum under siege. Instead, the legion walked across the river, was shot by my archer, then walked back north again. Now it should be pretty easy pickings, as easy as a legion gets at least.
I'll diagram my movements this turn, since this was the most tactically interesting turn of the conflict thus far. First the injured legion moved a tile east onto the desert and then attacked the archer next to it. As I understand the zone of control rules, once you move into a zone of control you can't move again out of it, but the zone of control doesn't prevent you from attacking. Or something like that; I'm still learning all the ins and outs of this system. The archer itself doesn't have a zone of control, making this a bit simpler. This first attack had a strength differential of 30, which is right on the edge of getting a one-hit kill. I rolled slightly below damage and the archer survived with 8 HP remaining. Note that if my legion had been full health, the additional 3 strength would almost certainly have been enough to get the kill.
That said, leaving the archer just short of death worked out OK here. I was able to cross the river with the second legion indicated and get the kill. (Thanks ability to use enemy roads!) This put my nearly-full-strength legion next to TheArchduke's legion, and shielded the damaged legion from an attack next turn. The damaged legion will also be able to promote next turn, and will be back to full strength immediately thereafter.
Those first two attacks cleared the field of the archer. The next step was to assault Mediolanum itself, which I was able to place under a formal siege by moving my galley next to the settlement. I wanted to get in as much damage as possible this turn in case TheArchduke can upgrade the warrior inside the city to a legion next turn, which would increase the defensive rating of Mediolanum to 40-something. First I attacked with the healthy legion northwest of the city, at the river crossing penalty, which significantly lowered the damage inflicted. (Without the Oligarchy + Great General pairing, this would have been effectively an even battle.) Then I attacked with the damaged legion northeast of the city, then the galley. Why not? There will be plenty of time to heal up once the city falls, for now I needed damage. It's not like that galley is an important unit. Here was the net result after everything moved:
Mediolanum has a little over one third strength left, and with four units able to attack next turn, I should be able to finish off the capture. The Archduke's legion will probably attack my legion to the northeast, but the odds won't be great there, since I have the Great General bonus and support bonus from the nearby units of mine. Further south, I used two archers to shoot at TheArchduke's other archer, knocking it down to 10 HP and crippling it in the process. I should be able to kill it next turn with the archer currently southwest of Arretium, and then get two more ranged attacks against the legion with the other ranged units. There's even another horsemen that the capital finished this turn coming up from further to the southwest, and the warrior east of Arretium will be upgraded into a legion next turn. Long story short: I think I've got this under control.
Inside Arretium, the Feudalism farming triangle is now complete south of the city, and those floodplains tiles have some VERY nice tile yields. From 3/0 base they are now 5/1 tiles. Dutch polders, anyone? As soon as I finish the Bath district (4 turns), the housing cap is going to lift and this city will grow like a weed. I can work that triangle of farms along with the two plains hill mines and still reach 18 food, which will translate into +8.8 food/turn with the amenities bonus. Then I can steal the other copper resource from Mediolanum post-capture and reassign it here to Arretium like it was always intended. This is a very strong city, and it will virtually match my capital in production output.
Unfortunately, look at the damage to the Commercial district: 9 turns of repair needed. It's at something like 40/150 production right now, just a brutal amount of damage. It's weird how pillaging a tile improvement can be fixed like it's nothing, while pillaging a district results in this kind of crippling blow. I also found out that a pillaged district doesn't produce Great Person points; I'm no longer making progress towards a Great Merchant. Oh well. I'm not likely to repair this district any time soon, since I can still build another trader unit (1/2 routes currently used) and that's the main reason why I needed Commercial districts right now. I'm going to build the Bath districts, then crank out some traders since I need the boost for Medieval Faires civic. Then we'll see about repairing the Commercial district or working on the Industrial district after that.
In addition to these successful tactical moves, I was also throwing down Bath districts everywhere with the completion of Engineering tech. The cost to build them ended up being 81 production, not too bad at all. I was glad I managed to get most of them down on the map before finishing another civic and driving up the cost further. In my test games, they were usually more like 65 production, but in this actual playthrough I delayed Engineering tech for Shipbuilding to make this attack viable, and ended up with more civics in hand as a result. Not a bad tradeoff.
On the next turn, I was able to complete the maneuvering around Mediolanum:
Sullla: This was the view when I opened up the save file. TheArchduke made a solid tactical move on his turn: he swapped the position of his legion and his warrior, then attacked the legion directly east of Mediolanum with his own legion from within the city. My unit got the better of that trade thanks to the Great General and the support bonus from the surrounding units, but TheArchduke did decent damage, and he simultaneously managed to buff the defenses of Mediolanum by putting the legion inside the city. Defensive strength went up from 33 to 38, not bad. TheArchduke also moved a second legion towards me from Arpinum; that's his best remaining production city by a country mile, and it must have been able to crank out the legion over the last few turns, likely with Agoge policy boosting the efforts. I think TheArchduke played this about as well as he could, given the poor hand he was dealt here.
But he did have a poor hand here, and this turn proved to be a strong tactical showing for the southern Roman forces. First things first: let's take that damaged city with the surrounding units.
Mediolanum itself was doomed, legion inside or no legion inside. The goal here was therefore to set up my units in such a way that they would be protected against that enemy legion incoming from the east, and be able to move on to the next remaining cities as quickly as possible. I started by attacking with the galley; the odds were terrible, but that unit will be able to rest up and heal afterwards, and faced no further danger. It knocked off about 10% of the city's health, and that was good enough. Then I attacked with the unit northeast of the city (the #2) specifically because I could see that I was going to come up short on the attack. The legion northeast of the city already had a promotion ready to go, which means that I could attack and then promote on the following turn to get right back to full health. Then I attacked last with the legion northwest of the city, since that legion had already burned its promotion previously. I would not be able to insta-heal that unit, so I wanted it to take as little damage as possible while attacking and also be inside the city itself, where units can heal back 20 HP per turn instead of 15 HP per turn. This worked out as planned, and I ended up capturing Mediolanum with the units ending up on the correct tiles that I intended.
Next up, it was the archers' turn to take a hand. I moved the archer inside the city to the northwest, and the archer behind Arretium into the city itself. That allowed the archer furthest back to shoot at TheArchduke's archer and finish it off. Take that for pillaging my Commercial district! Next, the other two archers combined to cripple the warrior standing to the southeast of Mediolanum:
Together they knocked it down to about 20% health, almost exactly the same result that my own warrior had when teh shot me a few turns back over at Aquileia. As in that previous case, this warrior likely would have died without the Oligarchy combat bonus to grant that extra +4 strength. At this point, I went to upgrade my full health warrior southeast of Arretium into a legion, and realized that I needed to swap civics in order to get the half cost upgrades. So let's do that before making any further moves:
I kept Conscription policy, which is currently saving me about 12 gold/turn. It's the best gold-producing option for me by a country mile, and I expect to keep running it for a very long time. This army is only going to get bigger, not smaller. I traded out Serfdom for Urban Planning, since my current builder production is done for the moment, and slotted Charismatic Leader back into place again. There probably won't be any more opportunities to get the 2 for 1 envoy deal again in this game. In the Wildcard slot, I dropped Bastion for Professional Army, and that's where those cheap upgrades will come into play. I have to salute the Bastions policy though, something that I've never used previously in Civ6. It was exactly what I needed to help hold off teh, and I'm glad that I was able to run it at the perfect time to help save Aquileia.
With the new policies in play, I could now do this:
Yep, that's a 40 production warrior being turned into a 110 production legion at a cost of 55 gold. Better than 1 gold for 1 production, craziness. If we create an in-house mod, this is something that almost certainly needs to be toned down. It's just way too effective to upgrade units right now, and that's doubly true with Professional Army policy. I also upgraded my last remaining slinger to an archer for 15 gold (heh), and I'll turn that last injured warrior into a legion as well next turn. Then I'll be able to swap into another policy at the next opportunity. If this game continues for another two or three dozen turns, I'll start saving up money for another mass legions -> muskets upgrade, using Professional Army to discount the whole thing. Ditto for the archers -> crossbows upgrade too. I'm very far ahead of everyone else in this game on the civics tree, and this is how you leverage Rome into a position of dominance: early cultural advantage into strong policies into military/economic superiority.
Up at the top of this screenshot, I diagrammed another little tactical shuffle. I swapped the position of the damaged legion with my horseman, and then used the horseman to finish off TheArchduke's warrior. I've highlighted the extremely one-sided combat result in the picture above. This easy fight even gave my horseman enough experience to earn its first promotion, nice. Then the two damaged legions standing next to TheArchduke's legion both promote-healed, leading to this image:
No soft targets for him to attack. I took the Battlecry promotion (+7 combat strength against melee and ranged units) because it seemed more likely to be useful. If any of these units gets a second promotion, I'll likely take Tortoise (+10 defense against ranged attacks) because that's also quite handy. Just not so much here, now that TheArchduke's archers are dead. I expect he'll retreat his legion back into Arpinum and wait for the final blows to fall. He's welcome to try attacking if he wants, although I doubt it would go well against my hill bonus + Great General + Oligarchy + support bonus + Battlecry (60 strength!) legion. Seriously, go ahead: take your best shot.
Next turn I'll move up against Durocortorum while promote-healing the legion northeast of Mediolanum and resting the legion inside Mediolanum itself. Durocortorum should fall on Turn 86, and then everything converges on Arpinum. I'd say roughly four or five more turns left for this war, barring something unexpected popping up. TheArchduke's military is virtually gone now, just that one legion remaining. If the last couple turns were set up, this was the turn where the jaws finally snapped shut and crushed his army.
When everything comes together on a turn like this, it's a very satisfying feeling. TheArchduke was enormously behind from a military standpoint, but it was during these last two turns that I was able to break apart his army and crack the remaining defenses. Durocortorum was a brand new city that was surely empty inside, and Arpinum would be easy enough to surround with my army, legion on defense or no legion. Elsewhere, I invested another envoy into Hong Kong to end the war up there (and score 3 total envoys for the Industrial city state +2 production bonus). With Aquileia having not taken any damage for the last 3 turns, I also went ahead and repaired the walls there back up to full health. No need to take any chances in case teh would come calling again later on.
Teh still had his hands full for the moment:
teh: Iron Working is completed, but without iron, I can't produce swordsmen, so the builder out of Aachen will go to the iron near Ulm. Next tech is Engineering. Cologne produces an archer who moves towards Mainz immediately. Next build is a heavy chariot (4 turns) because I feel like Frankfurt will fall again once I capture it and I'll lose my last non-archer unit so I need another one. Heavy chariot gains 1 movement bonus if on flat terrain, so it can come to the center faster.
In the center, all the archers shoot at Frankfurt and the warrior captures the city back. The garrisoning archer is destroyed in the process. I do the same trick with the commercial hub to boost Mainz's Hansa. Archduke is down to 2 cities now, so Sullla will probably finish him off in 5-6 turns. In terms of military strength, Sullla is leading with 363, followed by my 133, Yuris' 117 and Archduke's 59.
Well, Yuris take Frankfurt back, and it will be 5-6 turns before I can take it back since I don't have any melee or cavalry units.
I shoot at the city center and the closer eagle warrior with my 3 archers while the 4th one promotes. The new archer arrives in Mainz, and my other archer is down SE of the bananas tile. Yuris promotes both of his eagle warriors with the +defense against ranged attack promotion, so my archers don't hurt them as much as you would expect.
Unfortunately teh ran afoul of the same issue as he did before: he recaptured Frankfurt with his warrior, only to see the city immediately re-recaptured by Yuris on the Aztec half of the turn. Teh needed some kind of melee unit to stop this from occuring, as every time it passed back into German hands the city defenses went down to 10 strength, and that just wasn't enough to stop the Eagle Warriors from retaking it again. Even one sword or horseman here would have made a huge difference. Worse yet, as teh mentioned he lost his only melee unit in the region when Frankfurt was captured again for the third time. Since ranged units can't capture cities in Civ6, teh was stuck here for the time being. He was indeed making progress, having killed one of the two Aztec archers on the most recent recapture, but this war continued to drag down his progress. I'm sure teh wanted to be working on his Hansas, not pausing to fight off Eagle Warriors.
While the east remained stalemated, I continued to advance in the west:
The injured legion northeast of Mediolanum moved another tile northeast into the marsh and promoted for the +50 health. The horseman moved into a staging position, and the promoted legion on the desert tile moved up and attacked Durocortorum itself for 53 damage. The city will heal back 20 HP of that between turns, of course, but I planned to take the city on the next turn with the two legions and one horseman all combining their damage. If I held my attack this turn, I likely wouldn't have enough next turn, and continuing to capture these cities as quickly as possible remained the goal. From here, this group of units will push east over the iron hill tile and surround TheArchduke's legion, then head for Arpinum.
Meanwhile, I had more units pushing up from the south. The full health upgraded legion could move next to Arpinum next turn, and there was a pair of archers trailing in its wake that could shoot at TheArchduke's legion if it remained out in the open like that. I was maneuvering a third archer (the one southeast of Mediolanum) into position as well. TheArchduke's legion will be forced to give up its position or else get surrounded and shot to death. Again, there's not really much TheArchduke could do here in terms of tactical maneuvering. I had enormously more force than him at this point, and so it was only a matter of time before I could take the remaining objectives on the map. (The military power rating for TheArchduke was now 40, which meant that this was his only remaining unit.)
On the following turn, TheArchduke used his legion to build a fortification on that tile halfway between Mediolanum and Arpinum. I was a little surprised that he hadn't done so earlier. In any case though, his unit now had an even stronger defensive bonus, and perhaps TheArchduke was expecting me to attack him there. No such deal though; he could sit there forever, and I was happy to go around that unit. The real action this turn was at Durocortorum:
Three attacks were once again sufficient to take the place. I actually came up 3 HP short of capturing it on the second attack, bah. Not a big deal, although my horseman took 12 additional damage in that last attack, and since the unit was already at full XP, it didn't even gain anything from it. Aside from actually taking the city, of course. This had become pretty routine by now, as I took my fifth city in less than a dozen turns of war. Durocortorum threw down a Bath district on the desert tile southwest of the city, and then began repairing its monument damaged in the city capturing. One more city left to go to complete the process of Roman unification.
On the German front, I moved up my builder to repair the pillaged horses and spotted four of teh's archers clustering around Frankfurt. That was quite a few archers, and it was easy to see why Yuris was struggling over here. His military power dropped significantly this turn, down to just 83 power compared to 150 power for teh. This was the first indication to me that the Germans were winning the war between their civs, even though Frankfurt remained in Aztec hands for now. I went ahead and repaired the horse pasture, moving my horseman up to cover the unit. Two of my archers combined to shoot one of teh's archers, crippling the unit:
Just barely short of enough damage to kill it, although I had better than average combat luck here so I couldn't really complain. Now my units were in an exposed position, and after playing the turn, I wasn't happy at all with these moves. Putting my units at risk like this to fix a single pillaged tile was very much not worth it, especially while most of my army was engaged elsewhere on the map. Remember how my big picture strategy was to defend over here while my main army finished chewing through northern Rome? There was no reason to take on this level of danger.
I was curious to see how teh played his turn in response. He could very likely kill one of my archers by combining fire against it, although that would open him up to a deadly counterattack on my next turn. He might even be able to kill the horseman if he concentrated all four shots of his archers against it, which would be an especially foolish loss on my part if that took place. I was crossing my fingers that the Vilnius city state would keep a unit on the tile where the injured warrior was currently standing, since that blocked the eastern-most archer from reaching the horseman unit or the northern archer. Again, trading units here in a small-scale engagement was just dumb on my part. I should have been defending and waiting for the vastly superior army to get over here before doing anything aggressive. Sigh. That was my fault for being too eager to repair the horses tile. At least this took a little pressure off Yuris, and I supposed that was worth something.
Fortunately for me, it turned out that these fears were unfounded:
teh: Sullla's troops have arrived from the west. He attacked my promoted archer last turn and Yuris attacked the archer SE of Frankfurt with his eagle warrior. I make a small retreat to the east. I move 2 archers on to the hills near Mainz. The badly damaged archer withdraws one tile and shoots at the horseman, and the archer next to Frankfurt shoots at Yuris' archer. The circled archer promotes this turn. If Sullla decides to come closer, I'll have at least 4 archers to shoot at his horseman, so Mainz looks safe now.
Aachen finishes the builder and it start moving towards Ulm. I start building another heavy chariot here. Archduke is down to a single city now...
Teh ended up retreating his units in good order, continuing to concentrate on Yuris for the time being. We actually ended up both spooking ourselves here in this little spat over the horse pasture. I was terrified that teh was about to send a huge surge of units against me, while teh was equally terrified that I was about to attack in force. Meanwhile, my army was still far off in northern Rome, and teh's army was heavily tied up trying to take Frankfurt back from Yuris. As it turned out, neither one of us were really in danger from the other despite our state of war. Fog of war has some fun effects at times. I used an archer on the following turn to wipe out that crippled German archer, and that would be the end of this particular little skirmish.
Back on the northern front, I was about to hit Arpinum with 3 legions and the horseman on the following turn, which meant that it was about to be very very dead. (Horses ignore zone of control, which means that unit could reach the desert tile northeast of Arpinum and still attack.) Even if TheArchduke built a legion in there on his interturn, I still had enough force to finish it off. I was hoping that 2 legions and the horseman would be enough to take the city so that I could pillage the horses pasture with my archer before capturing the city. That would give me another 50 gold, and I could use a legion to immediately repair the damaged tile. Regardless though, this should be the end of the war and the final unification of northern and southern Rome. It wouldn't be the end of the fighting entirely though: Stockholm awaited next up to the north. After chewing through all of these Roman cities, that defensive rating of 31 didn't seem too impressive.
Here were a few more items of interest taking place on Turn 87:
Sullla: Roma finished its Bath district this turn, and suddenly I don't have to worry about housing anymore. The extra amenity is also nice, since I'm going to need some more happiness once the occupation penalty ends and the northern Roman cities start growing upwards. Now it's back to the Commercial district again, followed by a trader unit after that. I also need to increase the food output here; I'll likely build a water mill in the near future, which will grant +2 food thanks to the rice tile. Oh, and if I take Yerevan, I can run a +2 food / +1 production trade route from the capital down there since it has a Holy Site district, and that adds 1 food to a trade route destination. Still need to get the Industrial district done here as well, which will be worth 5 production/turn from adjacency bonuses and the Hong Kong city state. And yes, Civ6's cultural picker grabs a mountain tile in the second ring over resources in the third ring. What a system.
The builder who had cleared the jungle and farmed the floodplains in the Ravenna/Arretium area made its way down to Hispalis and reconnected my extra source of spices with its last charge. I made this move with the intention of offering a spices trade to Yuris; while he probably doesn't need additional happiness for his cities, all his Aztec units get +1 strength for each luxury resource he possesses, and that has to be useful for him right now. I don't think this luxury is actually worth 5 gold/turn, but I wanted to come out with a high initial offer. If Yuris bargains this down to 2 or 3 gold/turn, I'll happilly accept. I need money for my next unit upgrades into crossbows and (eventually) muskets. The sooner I can start stockpiling gold, the better. (I did finish a Commercial district in Hispalis this turn, although it didn't increase my gold/turn amount since it wasn't placed on a river. Hispalis will get its Bath district next, then perhaps complete a market for the very nice +3 gold/turn benefit, and the Merchant specialist slot.)
And finally, in the anti-suspenseful category, here's a stiched-together picture of the military power ranking of the four players in this game. It's hard to emphasize how far ahead I am in terms of military strength, and with the occupation penalty finally about to end in all those northern Roman cities, my civ will be unleashed in pretty much every Demographics category. With teh and Yuris throwing units against one another, this has the potential to get ugly. I'll go right ahead and keep playing as usual, but going forward I think it's going to be more of a sandbox exercise. This game looks like it's mostly in the bag, and a matter of waiting until the other players decide to concede.
With Bath districts beginning to complete, my cities would finally have all of the housing and amenities that they needed for the forseeable future. The resource deal that I floated to Yuris would also prove to be significant in this game. Not only did Yuris accept without barganing me down to a lower offer, I followed this up with another offer to trade an excess iron source for another 5 gold/turn. Yuris accepted that as well, and suddenly my gold/turn income was looking respectable again, while simultaneously sucking money out of Yuris' pockets to prevent him from setting up potential unit upgrades of his own. While Yuris was my ally for the time being, better that I have that extra money than him.
On the eastern front, teh was finally able to produce a heavy chariot out of Cologne, and take back Frankfurt from the Aztec interlopers:
teh: My badly damaged archer is destroyed by Sullla's archer, but no other casualties. Yuris effectively abandons the city as he withdraws his eagle warrior and garrisons Frankfurt with an archer. I attack Frankfurt with my 3 archer to keep its health low for my eventual counter-attack, and harass Sullla's archer with my promoted archer.
Here's the overall view of my empire. Ulm is still working on its infrastructure, but the rest are producing units.
Cologne produces the first heavy chariot. It moves towards Mainz immediately. Mainz produces yet another archer. I decide to start a spearman build in Mainz (4 turns) to counter potential horsemen of Sullla and yet another archer in Cologne (you can never have enough!) In the center, my archers keep shooting at the city center since there are not other targets available now (Yuris has withdrawn all his troops).
I get a boost to the Mercenaries civic since I now have 8 land units with the completed second heavy chariot in Aachen. Aachen starts working on its Commercial Hub (4 turns) since I need extra traders and the gold to keep up with Sullla if I were to not forfeit the game now to him. The builder mines the iron next to Ulm finally. I still can't produce iron-requiring units since I only have 1 iron hooked up, but if I can get encampments, those will allow me to get swordsman.
You can see the 2 new encampments circled in red and the new iron mine in blue. Aachen will have to wait for the next turn to put down an encampment since it needs 7 pop for its 4th district. The heavy chariot is in position now to take the city next turn since the city health is basically zero after 2-3 turns of constant archer barrage by me.
Frankfurt is back in my control. One archer softens the city (0 health), and the heavy chariot moves into take the city, destroying Yuris' archer with the capture. Two archers shoot at Yuris' eagle warrior to weaken it and (hopefully) prevent it from capturing the city back. Two archer shoot at Sullla's archer near Aquileia. I have 6 archers here, with another archer and heavy chariot coming from the south. Cologne has produced that archer, and it starts building a horseman now that I have my 2nd horse back.
Teh had thus belatedly won his struggle against Yuris, and the two of them would sign a white peace shortly thereafter. (Players cannot sign peace at all until 10 turns have passed in Civ6, as you are unable to contact the other civ for the first 10 turns after war is declared. This is a significant change from Civ4 - be careful about declaring war flippantly!) Yuris ended up losing both of his archers and achieved no lasting gains from this conflict, although he did pick up a couple of builders via the Eagle Warrior capture ability. Even if this might have been a break-even trade from a pure production standpoint, the big picture result was a strategic swing and miss. Yuris needed to get something for himself out of this round of wars, not tread water, and he had failed to achieve much of anything. Striking against another target - or even doing nothing and letting the other players fight it out - would likely have been a better choice. This was my analysis after the game concluded:
"Yuris' decision to attack teh is likely the single biggest discussion point of this PBEM game. And in retrospect, it was clearly a mistake on his part. Still, as I said at the time, it's an easy call from the omniscient lurker perspective that simply wants to see a close game and an exciting outcome. It's a much harder call from Yuris' limited perspective. The way I see it, Yuris had three major options at that point:
1) Attack Sullla. This has the advantage of potential reigning in the game leader and stopping the runaway. But it's hard to see what Yuris gets personally out of this move, since his territory didn't border any of my territory. At best, he's making teh stronger by this move. Aside from slowing down the game leader, this does nothing to help Yuris win the game.
2) Attack teh. The advantage here is potentially claiming land from Yuris' immediate neighbor while he was off fighting a different opponent. Capture a few cities and suddenly Yuris could be large enough to challenge the winner of the Roman civil war. The disadvantage is exactly what ended up happening: teh is strong enough to fight back, the war turns into a stalemate, and Rome runs over half the map.
3) Attack TheArchduke. I don't know how much Yuris thought about this, but it may have been his best move. Imagine if Yuris lets teh fight it out with me, while using that time to capture Arpinum and then Stockholm. Suddenly he ends up with 6 cities against 5 or 6 for teh and perhaps 8 or 9 cities for me, and with myself and teh weakened from mutual infighting. That's a much better situation for him, right? It's an interesting counterfactual.
With that said though, Yuris' biggest issue wasn't choosing between any of these alternatives. It's that he simply didn't put himself in a strong enough position to make any of these choices effective. Yuris is the only one of the players in this game who failed to settle any cities in the center of the map. He was locked out completely, and that greatly weakened his potential options. Yuris also failed to secure a second source of either horses or iron, and he also failed to build an Encampment in any cities. That meant he had the fewest cities in the game, with a small production base, and no strategic resources to build modern units. At that point, none of his potential options would have worked. He just didn't play the first 80ish turns well enough to have any good options at all. I'll close this discussion for now by reminding the lurkers that Yuris isn't under the obligation to help other players win so that the game can be more entertaining for the lurkers to read. He made what was a justifiable choice for his civ at that moment... and it backfired spectacularly."
As for poor teh, he had made the correct metagaming call to slow down the leading civ, then got stuck fighting off an opportunistic strike from a third party. The timing was awful from his perspective, interrupting his push for Hansas and Commercial districts, and forcing teh to crank out more archers and chariots. Teh also made the tactical mistake of losing both of his warriors in city captures, forcing a long period where Frankfurt sat in Yuris' hands, denying teh access to horses. This was a serious setback to teh at a time when he couldn't afford a diversion.
The real winner in all of this was my civilization, of course, as I used the eastern conflagration to complete the conquest of northern Rome:
Sullla: I logged in to see that Yuris accepted my resource trade offer from last turn. What?! I didn't really expect that to work! LOL, ok then, fine with me. I'll take another 5 gold/turn for a resource that I can't even use. Time to start saving up for the next round of unit upgrades.
TheArchduke did not move his legion, not even to attack one of my units. I thought he would at least try to do a little extra damage on this final turn to one of my units. Oh well, I never needed to attack that legion in the end. My units surrounded the city:
First I attacked with the legion west of the city, then scampered the horseman through the enemy legion's zone of control to attack from the northeast of the city. It looked like I was going to come up just short of capturing Arpinum, so I shot the city with my archer and then made one final attack with the legion northwest of the city. Looking at this screenshot now, I realize that the Great General wasn't boosting the last two attacks - argh! What was I thinking here? If I had just moved the darn Great General, I'm sure that I could have pillaged the horses tile with my archer and still had enough damage to finish off the city. Or alternately, last turn I could have moved another archer up from the south instead of that half strength legion that never actually engaged in combat. Anyway, this is nitpicking for sure, but I want to point out that my tactics could have been better here. Another 50 gold certainly would have been nice.
That said, Arpinum fell to the third attack and brought an end to the independent existence of northern Rome:
I then spent 10 minutes microing the northern Roman cities now that the occupation penalty was over, which is why it's night in this screenshot. Arpinum is going to be a nice city once I can get the Bath district finished; the builder who just repaired the horse resource at Aquileia is on the way up here to chop and mine the grassland hill tile, which will knock out most of the Bath district's cost. (Is that how TheArchduke built one of those legions? The chopped forest?) Arpinum is crippled at present due to lack of housing, however once the Bath district fixes that, it will have lots of production and a sky-high housing cap. I'll probably run a trade route here as well to get a little extra food and production incoming.
In the bigger picture, my science and culture output both went up by a lot. Science went from 24 beakers/turn to 31 beakers/turn, and culture from 25 per turn to 31 per turn. The occupation penalty is -50% to production and gold output, but a brutal -75% to science and culture. I've now passed teh again (who is still at 26 beakers/turn) and that gap should only grow over time as all of the northern Roman cities begin to grow upwards. Taking Stockholm will also cause a sizable shift, since it will cost teh 4 beakers and grant me at least 4 beakers in turn. That city at size 7 is a very tasty prize. There's already a Stockholm warrior next to my units; I hope the poor thing is dumb enough to attack my 49 strength legion.
One more thing I wanted to mention separately. I wanted to thank TheArchduke for joining the rest of us in this PBEM game. He's been speedy at playing the turns, polite without fail in our forum interactions planning this game, and he was an excellent neighbor in-game. I genuinely feel bad at having to attack someone who is such a pleasant individual, and I very much doubt that he had any plans to attack me. So cheers to you TheArchduke, and thanks again for taking part in this endeavor. Good luck and best wishes!
I think it's important to remember that this was the very first PBEM game for Civ6 at Realms Beyond, and all of us were learning the ropes here. TheArchduke had the misfortune to start next to me and fall victim to a well timed attack. Trust me, this is all much harder when you don't have the advantage of seeing everything globally in the lurker thread. TheArchduke learned a ton from this game and has already joined another Civ6 MP venture, taking the field in our PBEM2 game. He was a fantastic competitor in this game, and as I said at the time, I wish him the best of luck in future games.
Now that I had unified the two Roman halves, I had emerged as the dominant power in this game. The next pressing question: sit back and tech upwards via more city building, or go for the kill right now with my current army.