Realms Beyond PBEM1: Storming The Defenses

With TheArchduke's civ conquered, my forces continued onwards to the north and marched towards Stockholm. I had been the suzerain of this Scientific city state for a good portion of the game, but teh was the current suzerain now, and Stockholm was at war with me. I did not want to leave this potentially hostile force in my back lines in the event of a future campaign against Germany, and by conquering the city state I would simultaneously lower teh's science rate while increasing my own. There would be no occupation penalty for capturing Stockholm, and it had a highly useful natural wonder (the Galapagos Islands) located just offshore. Time for the legions to continue their steady tread onwards.

After resting and healing on Turn 89, I began my attack on Turn 90:

Sullla: My forward legion was attacked by both the enemy sword and the archer. Together they did about 30 damage, and the sword took heavy damage in return. Yeah, I could live with that exchange, and those city state units were about to pay a heavy price in response. Let's do some tactical diagramming, shall we:

I started by having my promoted archer shoot at the Stockholm archer up on the hill, and wow, look at that damage! I wasn't expecting to get 44 damage in one shot against an archer that had the hill defensive bonus. Those promotions definitely make a difference (my archer has "Volley" which grants +5 ranged strength against land units). Then I had the horseman finish off the damaged archer, using all five of its movement points to scale the forested hill tile. The horseman even made use of its own promotion (Coursers: +5 strength against ranged and siege units). After taking this screenshot, I did realize that I failed to move up the Great General before attacking though, which would have added another +5 strength to the horseman's attack. How do I keep forgetting this?!

Well, at least I had the Great General in position for my other attack. The damaged legion moved onto the forested hill tile to clear a path for my legion to the northwest of Arpinum to move 3 tiles and attack, finishing off the sword. I swear, having that extra movement point from the Great General is so very, very nice. Going from 2 moves to 3 moves on most units makes a world of difference. Here's the endturn tactical situation:

These six units are going to lead the assault on Stockholm. Next turn I'm going to have the injured legion in the yellow pillage the farm southwest of Stockholm, which will heal it back up to full again, while everything else shuffles forward into position. I'll also upgrade the promoted archer into a crossbow when I cross the 100 gold threshhold. Then on Turn 92, the actual attack will begin with 1 crossbow, 1 archer, 3 legions, and 1 horseman. It will probably take two turns of fighting to capture the city itself, but Stockholm's days are numbered and the city should fall on Turn 93.

Here's a picture of my upcoming tech tree after a cut and paste job. (Civ6 has these massive gaps on the tech/civics trees that make taking screenshots difficult.) Right now I'm picking up the very cheap Astrology tech followed by the one immediately behind it that opens up Harbor districts (Celestial Navigation). Then I want Construction tech followed by Military Engineering, Stirrups, and then Gunpowder, which is off screen to the right. That's the tech that unlocks muskets, and I can probably get there in about two dozen turns, long before anyone else is even remotely close. The timing would sync up reasonably well with the arrival of the second Great General, a Medieval one that will boost Medieval and Renaissance units. Muskets are 55 strength units, and so that would be 60 strength with the Great General to boost them. (No Oligarchy bonus though, since I'll be leaving it for Merchant Republic.) I think a few upgraded legions turned into muskets would do very nicely for running over Germany, crossbows or no crossbows on their part.

I'm significantly ahead in the civics category right now (14 civics researched to 11 for teh and 9 for Yuris) and likely to get further ahead as time passes. With repaired monuments completing in northern Rome, my culture has ballooned up to 37 points/turn. That's more than double my rivals, who are both making 16 culture/turn. What was it that I keep saying about Rome in this game? Yeah, this civ is pretty strong. I have Medieval Faires civic nearly done now, just waiting on the 4 trade routes to boost it to completion, so now I'll backtrack and work on Recorded History and Civil Service. I won't be landing either of these boosts, and therefore it doesn't matter if I research them to completion. Recorded History holds Natural Philosophy policy, which doubles the adjacency bonus of Campus districts. That can be awesome on some mountain-heavy maps (or if playing as Australia), but it's not very helpful here. Civil Service has the excellent Meritocracy policy: +1 culture per specialty district. Sadly, Baths don't count there. Nonetheless, it's a powerful policy that I will likely run as soon as I reach Merchant Republic government and gain additional Economic policy slots.

Here's the next part of the civics tree; it seemed easier to post two separate screenshots here. (So much wasted interface space!) The civic I completed at the top of the tree is Mercenaries, which unlocked Professional Army policy for those half cost upgrades. Very useful policy that you'll only run situationally, but get a lot of value from. Medieval Faires is then sitting at half completion below it, and typically that's useful for Medina Quarter: +2 housing in cities with 3 specialty districts. It's not useful here though due to my Bath districts. Instead, Medieval Faires gives me a decent Diplomatic policy in the form of Merchant Confederation: +1 gold/turn for each envoy at any city state. Right now, that would be worth about 8 gold/turn, and certainly would be better than the other crummy options I'm getting in the Diplo policy realm. I'll slot that in when I finish the civic.

The real prize though is Merchant Republic government at Exploration civic, easily the best of the three midgame governments. It has 1 Military, 2 Economic, 1 Diplomatic, and 2 Wildcard policies - a very strong mixture of policy cards. The innate government bonuses are also sweet: 2 additional trade routes and 15% cheaper rush buy costs. Awesome stuff all around. I can't wait to reach that government and open up 7 useful (i.e. non-Diplomatic) policy slots compared to 3 at present. Compared to everyone else mucking around in Oligarchy, that's going to be a massive advantage. There are two more extremely powerful civics just off further to the right in the form of Mercantilism and The Enlightenment, both of which will be easily boostable by me. I'll discuss them further when we get closer to reaching them. They aren't really that far away though, maybe 35 turns or something along those lines.

Finally, here's the current scoreboard. I've opened up a commanding lead here, and it's likely to keep growing as my cities grow upwards. Take population, for example. On Turn 71, Yuris had a total population of 22 across his empire. Here on Turn 90, he has a population of... 24. His cities have all run up against the housing limit and they can't grow upwards any more, not without adding granaries or aqueducts or whatever. Teh is in slightly better shape, but his population has been stagnating in recent turns too. Both of them are growing upwards with districts, and that does make a difference. However, I can also grow upwards with districts, and I have much, much more room for further population expansion than either of them. I'm already at 40 population and the northern Roman cities have a ton of growing to do. And that's not even counting my core cities, which are mostly in the process of finishing their Bath districts and thus will be able to avoid the housing penalty until roughly size 10.

Long story short: my rivals are getting capped out while I still have plenty of room to grow. And that's not even counting the three city states to absorb, or the three offshore islands that I plan to settle. I like where this is going.

This was a good overview of my situation as I prepared to place Stockholm under siege. For the moment, teh and Yuris were still at war and I was able to pursue an attack on the valuable Scientific city state without opposition. Domestically, I was moving from strength to strength, beginning to open up a major lead as my competitors stalled out on 4-5 cities while I had just short of a dozen. I could even grow upwards better than they could, since I had access to Bath districts and they did not. That being said, there was still some danger here, particularly at Aquileia:

Teh finally established permanent control over Frankfurt on Turn 91. I was scouting his forces by moving my horseman forward two tiles and then back two tiles each turn, and that was indeed a lot of archers on hand. Keep in mind that this was despite the fact that I had killed two archers already, plus the two warriors that were lost in the multiple recapturings of Frankfurt. If all of those units moved against Aquileia while my army was still off attacking Stockholm, this could potentially get dicey, especially if teh brought a battering ram for his chariot. I needed to remember that Germany would always have crazy production from teh's Hansas, and with Agoge policy the archers were very cheap indeed to build at an effective 33 production cost. This was my summary at the time: "I'm not sure that teh can win the game from his current position, but he's not going to make it easy for me to finish things up either. Turtling with archers/crossbows can be a difficult puzzle to break. I think we might be at this for a while longer."

Turn 92 brought the formal attack against Stockholm, major international news, and a crucial decision for me to make:

Sullla: The big news of the turn was located down in the bottom corner of the screen: Yuris sued for peace with teh after the reconquest of Frankfurt. That immediately raised the question of whether I should also negotiate a peace treaty with teh and end my own war with Germany. I'll get to that in a minute though. First up was the attack against Stockholm. I started by having my ranged units bombard the city state, then sent in the melee units. Here's a composite shot of the action:

I'll begin with the crossbow down there in the corner. Crossbows are medieval units and therefore do benefit from my Great General (which boosts Classical/Medieval units), making them very powerful units indeed. Archers do not get the boost because they are Ancient era units. (By the way, Great Generals do stack in Civ6, or at least they did before the most recent patch. When I get the second Great General, that might be the time to go after teh, with 50 strength / 4 movement crossbows.) That fortifications penalty is rough though. My crossbow did 11 damage followed by my archer doing 6 damage, and I was probably lucky to get that much.

Then it was the turn of the legions and the horseman, and without a strength advantage, this was a grinding battle of attrition. The problem was made worse by having to attack across the river with the two western legions, although unfortunately there was no way around that. When the dust settled, the city state was below half health:

Of course, Stockholm would heal up 20 HP between turns because the city wasn't actually under formal siege. Still, the city was definitely weakening, and was set to fall on the next turn barring anything weird happening. That was a good thing since my units were also starting to weaken from all that damage! A couple of them were on the verge of promotion though, and so far teh didn't seem interested in trying to make a move over here. Stockholm would fall soon enough.

Now for the real question: peace with teh? He did not offer me a peace deal on his turn, for what that's worth. I spent a while thinking this over, and went far enough as to offer a treaty at one point. There's much to suggest in favor of signing peace: a chance to go conquer the remaining city states, a chance to go settle the offshore islands, and a chance to develop the northern Roman cities. Time is almost certainly on my side in a game where I have 11 cities to teh's 5 cities. This is also the direction that my impulses lean towards the most, since I'm generally a peaceful builder at heart. All my instincts were leaning towards signing peace and going off into builder mode for a while.

However... the counter argument is that I'm much stronger militarily than teh right now, so why should I give him breathing room to develop a stronger military? Why not keep the pressure on him and keep him sweating rather than letting him develop all those potential districts? Germany's crazy production can stack up a lot of peaceful buildings in a hurry, after all. (Just look at all those districts queued up in Cologne! Although I think the Hansa is the only one actually finished.) I ultimately made my decision based on a more prosaic concern: I was worried that if I signed peace now, it might also count as peace with the Stockholm city state and teleport all my units outside of Stockholm's borders. That would be a disastrous result from a tactical standpoint.

Anyway, so we'll remain at war for now and see what happens. I'm going to take Stockholm, heal my army, and then see if I can move on Frankfurt in a pincer movement. If the odds don't look good, the I can always back off, sign a treaty, and do the peaceful development thing. But as long as I've got all these units, I should at least poke teh a little bit and see what happens, right?

When teh and Yuris signed peace with one another, I was sorely tempted to sign peace and go off into builder sandbox mode. As I wrote in the turn report at the time, I actually went so far as to offer peace with teh in-game, only to go back into the diplomatic screen and cancel the deal. My immediate fear was that if I signed peace with teh, it also might force a treaty with his client city state, and then my units might get teleported out of Stockholm's borders or some nonsense like that. I didn't want to run that risk. Furthermore, the longer I thought about offering peace, the less appeal that the offer held for me. I had already switched over all my cities to economic development, and so I didn't really lose anything by remaining at war. One of the things that the best players at Realms Beyond are really good at doing is pressing advantages when they have them, and I realized that this was a situation where I held a clear military advantage. For example, I couldn't see someone like mackoti signing peace and giving another player a break for no good reason when he had a clear edge. I decided to keep pushing back against my peaceful builder instincts in this game and see how it went. That meant no capturing of Vilnius or Yerevan for right now, but if I was able to run over some of teh's cities, there would be no need to conquer more city states anyway.

Stockholm then had a surprise for me on the next turn:

Sullla: Stockholm actually finished city walls on the interturn, then fired on my archer (?) between turns. What rotten timing here; even one turn later and this wouldn't have mattered. On the other hand, if Stockholm had finished walls a turn sooner, this would have been much more difficult. Since Vilnius has been sporting walls for some time now, I suppose I should count myself lucky I had this much time.

Anyway, the walls did not make capturing Stockholm any easier. The saving grace was that batting ram that I've been lugging around the whole game without having a use for it. First I shuffled the redlined legion and horseman on the northern coast into the water. By controlling the tiles northeast and northwest of Stockholm, I put the city under a formal siege - thanks for the clarification from one of the posters (Athmos I think) that embarked units exert a zone of control on their own tile. No more healing for Stockholm now. Then I linked the legion to that battering ram, and smashed them against the city walls:

That knocked the walls down to about 1/3 health, just like that. Don't overlook those battering rams for siege operations, they're probably a little too effective right now. With the walls heavily damaged, I could then have the crossbow and archer get in some pinpricks of ranged damage. The crossbow was quite effective even with the city penalty, taking off another 7 health from the walls and allowing the legions to finish off the rest. After all of the attacks, I dropped Stockholm into critical condition without quite being able to finish it off:

That city will not heal, so it's toast next turn. Finally. It should be size 5 or size 6 after capture, and will come with a Campus district intact. Along with those awesome Galapagos Island tiles to the north of Stockholm, this city is going to be very strong indeed, especially from a science perspective. It will also decrease teh's science output by 4 beakers/turn upon capture, so this should be something like a 10 beaker swing in total. I will also pillage the cattle pasture next turn before capturing the city, then upgrade the archer to a crossbow to give myself a pair of them (before swapping out of Professional Army policy via the free civics swap). That archer has a promotion pending, and I like the idea of having a pair of upgraded crossbows (with +5 ranged strength) with the Great General bonus pumping them up even further. Yes teh, let's get in a shooting match with my 50 ranged strength crossbows, with their 3 movement points, shooting at your 15 melee defense archers. Should be one-shot kills if the math works out the way I expect. Let's heal up this group and poke around a bit at Frankfurt.

One bit of city micromangement news. I chopped the forest at Arpinum and used it to complete the Bath district immediately. TheArchduke apparently completed a granary in here earlier, and I can use the Bath production overflow to repair the granary in a single turn, which I think is worthwhile to do. Not for the housing - for the +1 food. Arpinum has a low food surplus and will benefit significantly from that granary, going from +3.3 food to +4.4 food. I'm hoping the culture picker will grab the oasis to give me another 3 food tile. It looks like it's going to grab the grassland hill tile to the south though, and I'm fine with that as well. Longer term, I want a builder here to chop the jungle and harvest the bananas, which will jump up this city in population by 2 or 3 sizes. Then I can farm the three plains tiles to the west for a nice Feudalism triangle. That will require 5 builder charges to pull off, but it will transform Arpinum into a very strong city indeed. I'll try to set that up over the next ten turns or so.

The other amusing thing is that the borders expanded here and trapped Yuris' exploring Eagle Warrior. I am not of a mind to give him Open Borders, because I don't want him exploring through my back lines and contacting the Hong Kong city state. So... that Eagle Warrior might be stuck there for quite some time. Poor guy - he should have headed for home a long time ago.

The stranded Eagle Warrior was one of the more amusing moments of this game, stuck in a little doughnut hole of my culture when borders expanded. That unit would indeed wind up cooling its heels on that tile for quite a long time. My army had accompished the hard work of redlining Stockholm this turn (at considerable cost - look how difficult this was to pull off even with a veteran army of unique units and Great General!) and on the following turn I would reap the rewards:

Sullla: Stockholm proved to be a very rich prize indeed. A full six population points survived capture, and since this was a city state, there was no need to worry about that obnoxious occupation penalty. Stockholm will be immediately useful to my civ. The terrain itself will make for a very powerful city: a pair of 3 food / 1 gold / 2 beaker fish tiles next to the Galapagos Islands natural wonder, a cattle resource, and four grassland hill tiles out in the second ring, two of them forested and unchopped. Even better, the city came with two districts intact: the Campus district and a Harbor district! I didn't even see the Harbor district, which is located northeast of the city center. It was mostly hidden up there, heh. That means an additional trade route for my empire (now 5 in total) once I can finish building all the traders. With further cultural expansion onto the hill tiles and some worker labor to chop/mine the tiles, this will be another very strong city indeed.

Finally, here's the real kicker for this turn: the effect of taking Stockholm on science rate. Last turn, I was making 36 beakers/turn and teh was making 28 beakers/turn. That's a nice lead but it's not exactly dominant. Teh was getting +2 beakers for the initial envoy in the city state, and then another +2 beakers at his one Campus district. Stockholm was also doubling his Great Person points each turn via the suzerain bonus, speeding him along quickly to the first Great Engineer and the second Great Scientist. With my capture of the city state, however, that math has shifted significantly. Teh lost those 4 beakers/turn and dropped down to 24 beakers of science output. That has to sting, and losing the suzerain bonus is even worse. Instead of his Great Engineer being about 8 turns away, now it's more like 16 turns away. The second Great Scientist costs 240 GPP, and with teh's Great Scientist points per turn falling in half, it's now about a million years away.

The inverse is true for me. The six population points from Stockholm are worth 6 * 0.7 = 4.2 beakers alone before considering anything else. The Campus district adds another beaker, and then the two fish tiles pile on 4 more beakers. Hopefully the city's borders will soon grab that 1 food / 1 gold / 4 beaker tile in between them for even more insanity. All told, I'm up 10 beakers/turn over Turn 93, and now I'm essentially doubling the rest of the field in science. It's even worse in culture, where both teh and Yuris are right around 19 culture/turn... and I'm sitting at 42 points per turn.

Then there's the issue of gold/turn income, which as we've seen can be a huge factor in civilization power as well. Last turn I was making 24 gold/turn, and I was quite happy with that number. With the capture of Stockholm, the addition of that very nice trade route from the capital, and the Caravansaries policy, my income has skyrocketed to 38 gold/turn. That's enough for an archer to crossbow upgrade just shy of every 2.5 turns (with Professional Army discount of course). The other players aren't even close in gold output, with teh making about 12/turn and Yuris about 8/turn. (Yuris' decision to sell me two resources for 10 gold/turn total was truly silly, taking away money from his pocket and putting it into mine. Don't do this, folks.) My economy is sailing along at gangbusters pace now, and I should be able to keep upgrading my military to stronger and stronger units as more tech unlocks. I already have crossbows so I'll do those upgrades first, but muskets aren't that far away either now. I only need four more techs, all of which are already boosted or easily boostable, and as you can see with Stirrups tech there, they aren't too expensive to research.

I think the capture of Stockholm may be another turning point in this game. It's made my civ significantly stronger in just one turn. Now I need to do a little healing, and then we'll see if we can pay teh a visit with these units.

Stockholm proved to be even more valuable than I expected, especially from a research and income standpoint. I went from being ahead in science to doubling the rate of anyone else, speeding me along to the next generation of military tech. The gold income then allowed me to upgrade my units into their Medieval or Renaissance era equivalents with no break in the action. Professional Army policy (which no one else had enough culture to unlock yet) was hugely helpful here. I spent the next few turns upgrading my archers into crossbows, and this would not have been possible without having such a robust gold/turn economy. It was a huge change from when I first invaded TheArchduke and dropped down to a mere 5 gold/turn income.

I spent the next few turns healing and moving my units into position for a potential attack on teh. I was mostly trying to stay out of the firing range of his archers, although I did get to make a couple of opportunistic attacks like this one:

Teh moved an archer onto the forested hill tile next to my builder on Turn 95. At first I was going to take a defensive position here and make sure none of my units were within 2 tiles of that archer. Then I stopped myself and said, wait - why am I playing so defensively here? That archer had just moved itself into easy range of my crossbow, and this was a perfect time to take a potshot and test my theory that crossbows could one-shot teh's archers with the Great General bonus. This archer was slightly damaged but had the +6 defensive bonus for being on the forested hill tile, so if anything this would be a more difficult shot than normal. My crossbow lined up the shot and the bolt flew home true: scratch one dead German archer. That was a promoted archer too, even better. I had a generational advantage in military tech in this little combat, and it certainly made a difference. Then on Turn 97 I was able to go after another archer in a forward position:

Sullla: This was what I saw when I opened up the save file. Teh pulled his heavy chariot on the horses pasture back into the fog and shot at my legion with his archer on the jungle tile. That was more or less what I expected, although I thought he might keep the chariot in place to potentially harass my units as they moved up. Now I had a decision to make on how hard I wanted to push forward this turn. I was going to push in aggressively, and then I noticed two things. First of all, the city defensive strength of Mainz increased from 22 to 40 between turns. Second, teh's treasury went from 188 gold to this:

A mere 4 gold in the bank. OK, that can only mean one thing: teh now has at least one crossbow on the field. I knew it was inevitable since Machinery is not a difficult tech to get, but I was hoping I had a little bit more time. This meant that I would have to be very careful about making an advance. Teh upgraded at least one archer into a crossbow, and potentially two of them, depending on whether he was able to reach Mercenaries civic for Professional Army policy. He just discovered a civic on this very turn, so it's possible that he reached Mercenaries on Turn 97 and swapped into the new policy for a pair of archer -> crossbow upgrades. Or if not, then he spent 200 gold for a single non-discounted upgrade. But in either case, he definitely now had at least one such unit out on the field.

The good news in all this is that researching Machinery tech means that teh can no longer build archers and upgrade them into crossbows. And crossbows are very expensive units when they appear on the field; archers cost 50 production while crossbows cost 180 production. A crossbow costs about the same amount of production as a district! Of course, crossbows can be discounted with the +50% production card for medieval and renaissance units (Feudal Contract), but that doesn't change the fact that crossbows are still very pricey units. Teh won't be able to crank them out quickly even with his Hansas. And it also means that his current archers are very important units, as each one can be turned into a crossbow down the road with enough gold spent. Killing archers was therefore an important tactical goal for me.

That clarified how to play this turn for me. Rather than move in everywhere and potentially get shot by crossbow fire, I would look to kill the forwardmost German archer while continuing to stage in position. This would also give me another turn's worth of income towards my own crossbow upgrades; it didn't seem prudent to attack in the north unless I could also move forward with crossbows in the south.

As a result, I trained my crossbow fire on that exposed archer. The initial crossbow mouseover looked like the attack would fall just barely short of getting the one-hit kill, and I set things up so that both of them could shoot. This worked out as planned, with the archer surviving with 6 HP left after the first shot and dying to the second one. After shuffling my units around, I ended up with this formation:

With this picture taken at the end of my turn, and therefore slightly out of sequence with the other ones in this post. (This is more apparent in Civ6 with the day/night cycle that takes place in the background constantly.) My eastern legion kind of got stuck over there in the east; since there's a jungle tile between him and that second row of tiles in the fog, I think that he can't be hit. Maybe? The rules about when archers/crossbows can shoot over hills and jungle tiles are somewhat unclear to me. In any case, I would find out next turn.

Down in the south, I found this builder about to mine the iron resource south of Mainz. Unfortunately I didn't have enough moves with the horseman to capture it, since I had started my turn on the desert tile two south of Aquileia. I positioned the horse unit on the Bath district tile after moving on this turn, which would allow me to move and capture that builder on Turn 98 after it finished mining the iron. Everything else in Aquileia continued to hold in position waiting. On the next turn, I would crest the 200 gold mark and revolt back into Professional Army policy, then turn two of those archers into crossbows. And once I had crossbows on both sides of teh, that would be the signal to move out in force on Frankfurt.

These turns were a bit tense for me, as I kept wondering whether it was the right decision to continue the war against teh. I knew that he had at least one crossbow in the field now, and that gave me cause for concern. What if this attack went horribly wrong somehow? I would never live it down if I somehow managed to lose this game from a position of such dominance. I honestly felt a lot of pressure not to screw things up here, if you can believe it. Anyway, I upgraded two more of my own archers to crossbows on Turn 98 after switching back into Professional Army policy, and that provided the proper staging for an attack in force on Turn 99:

Sullla: Teh's units are absolutely packed together in the Frankfurt area; there's a unit on basically every tile here. The legion that I moved forward revealed a crossbow just to the east of the city, and that was the unit that became priority #1. Unfortunately, that crossbow can shoot over the jungle terrain by virtue of being on a hill tile, but I can't do the same from the plains north of the city. That forced me to take this move:

This was not the move I wanted to make, forcing my promoted crossbow up onto the horse tile right next to Frankfurt itself. I much would have preferred to put a legion on this tile. But what alternative did I have? If I moved the crossbows onto the plains tiles northeast or northwest of the city, then my crossbows wouldn't be able to shoot teh's unit, while being subjected to damage from a near-full strength crossbow with a promotion (almost certainly Volley) already in hand. That was a losing measure for sure. Sadly, I could not kill this crossbow in a single bolt, so I did the best I could and redlined it down to near-death status. This would have been a kill without the fortification bonus and the hill bonus, argh.

Next I moved up my southern crossbow and fired at the archer in the jungle tile, taking out over half its health. That left the archer easy pickings for my horseman unit... or so I thought, anyway. Look at this total +13 strength bonus that the archer is getting: +3 from the jungle, +6 from multiple turns of fortification, and +4 from support bonus due to surrounding units. That left me with a strength differential of only +14, and then I rolled poorly on the damage and didn't kill the archer at all, leaving it with 1 HP left or something like that. WTF game?!

More seriously though, this is a good example of how difficult it is to break a fortified position in Civ6. As I was mentioning during the earlier campaign, don't be fooled by the rapid successes against northern Rome. It is very difficult to attack an entrenched opponent in this game. Even with a numerical advantage, the Great General, and somewhat of a technological edge, I was still having my hands full here against teh. Grouping a bunch of units together on defensive terrain makes them hard to remove.

From here, I moved forward the promoted crossbow in Aquileia and got in a shot against the exposed archer southwest of Frankfurt... which again left that archer alive at something like 5 HP. And then my northern crossbow moved up and fired on teh's archer up on the hill west of Frankfurt, although I knew that attack wasn't going to result in a kill. After shuffling up the legions, this was the final result:

Three crippled archers and a crippled crossbow, but no actual unit kills. I can't say that I'm terribly pleased with this outcome, but by the same token, I also can't see how I would have played the turn differently. Shooting at the spears or chariots or whatever would not have given me a better result, and by getting in the first strike against every visible ranged unit, I've done what I could to mitigate counterattacks on teh's turn. With that said, dang this would be such a better position if I could have finished off some of those units! Three units under 10 HP, two of them at 5 HP or less, and one of them literally on a single hit point. All of them will still be able to move and fire and potentially promote-heal on their upcoming turn. So even though I think I did the best that I could here with the initial first strike, I was just the tiniest bit of dice luck away from turning this into an absolute rout.

I think I'm in good position to take Frankfurt from here, at least based on what I can currently see of the map. Teh can't save all of these units; there simply isn't anywhere for most of them to retreat to. I do think he'll kill at least one of my units on his turn though, possibly multiple units depending on what he chooses to do. The crossbow next to Frankfurt is obviously very vulnerable, and I expect him to concentrate on that guy. The horseman is also pretty exposed, since the spearman and teh's own horseman and multiple archers can all fire on it. However, the key unit for me is the easternmost legion, the one with 2 promotions. That unit is in prime position to occupy the hill east of Frankfurt, which will allow me to start encircling it and cut off the flow of reinforcements to the city. And no matter what teh focuses on, I'll be able to train a ton of firepower against his units next turn, between the 4 crossbows and 2 archers now in position, plus the 4 legions and 2 horseman closing in. I'm really curious to see how he plays this, and which units of mine he wants to go after first.

The other reason why capturing Frankfurt is critical is apparent right in this screenshot: that horseman unit off to the right. Frankfurt controls a second source of horses, and that means teh can build the things. I want to remove that resource from his grasp ASAP. His power has been skyrocketing in recent turns too; from 117 military rating on Turn 89 to a rating of 323 this turn (Turn 99). And that's despite the fact that I've killed two archers in that span! I have a current power rating of 555, for the curious. Germany really is the Meklars of this game, just insane production capacity once the Hansas are up and running. I may try to sign peace if I can capture Frankfurt and pull back to tech and develop upwards. This is really a slog right now.

This was a frustrating turn for me to play out. I moved in with much of my army against teh's entrenched defenses and managed to cripple, but not kill, many of his ranged units. There were a lot of different things that teh could choose to do on his turn, and I spent the night between these two turns worrying about how things could go wrong for me here. I had moved a lot of units forward and put an awful lot of them at risk. I tend to gravitate to the worst-case scenarios, which may be part of the reason why one of my weaknesses in these online Multiplayer games can be excessive passivity at times. What if teh had a whole bunch more units waiting in the fog? What if he cleaned up my army and then counterattacked? Not fun thinking overnight while waiting for the turn to get back to me.

Turn 100 would prove to be a different story:

Sullla: OK, this wasn't bad at all. I did lose my first unit of the game in the form of that horseman in the south, but otherwise my forces were mostly untouched. I didn't even lose my crossbow to the northwest of Frankfurt, which I had put in terrible risk last turn and had thought was probably a goner. Some of teh's other decisions look to have been odd from a tactical standpoint; he did not move his own crossbow even though I moved a legion right up next to it. I guess he used it to fire on my crossbow, then attacked it with his horseman in Frankfurt, or something like that? The archer on the hill west of Frankfurt also didn't move, and appears to have spent the turn healing instead of shooting at anything. Ditto for the archer on the bananas tile; see how both of them have more health this turn than last turn? That must mean that they spent the turn resting and healing.

The problem for teh is that both of those archers were very much in range of my own units. Healing them for 10 or 15 health was rather pointless, since I could do a whole lot more than that on my turn. He would have been better off shooting something and getting even minimal damage versus healing in place and then dying pointlessly. Still, maybe I'm not seeing something and teh had a good reason for acting as he did. Maybe.

If last turn didn't go the way that I wanted, this one very much did. A lot of my units couldn't attack last turn because they were still moving into position. Now everything was in place, and it was time to let loose.

I started in the south by having the city of Aquileia take a big chunk out of that horseman unit. The speed of that unit (4 movement) made it dangerous, and its attack rating of 36 was also greater than anything else in this theatre. Since Aquileia could only hit the horse or the spear, it was an easy call to damage the horseman. Then my crossbow to the east of the city fired on that archer and eliminated it. No fooling around, no bad damage rolls this time. Scratch one unit.

Next, I had my archer in the back take a potshot at the only unit it could reach, the spearman next to the bananas tile. I think it did about 25 damage, nothing much but still a helpful bit of chip damage. I followed that up by having the other crossbow in the south fire on the horseman unit. This crossbow was the one with a promotion, and I had seen that the other crossbow wouldn't quite be able to kill the horse unit, while this one would do just enough damage to finish it off. That +5 strength from the Volley promotion made the difference. The dice roll held true this time without any shenanigans, and I had another German unit removed in the south.

I moved next to start carving up those crippled archers from last turn. The archer that I positioned up in the hills last turn could now reach the redlined German archer southwest of Frankfurt, and easily finished it off. Then the other archer west of Frankfurt that spent the turn healing was easy prey for the legion next to it, which was barely even scratched while attacking at a ridiculous +40 strength differential. Again, I'm not sure why teh had that unit heal in place last turn. He had to see the legion moving up next to it, right (?) Archers are just roadkill for swords/legions if you can close the distance and get on top of them with melee units. Add in the Battlecry promotion plus a Great General and it becomes a massacre.

I still wasn't done yet. Teh surprisingly did not move his crossbow last turn and therefore it was right next to my two-promotion legion, where I was able to terminate it with extreme prejudice. Even with +11 strength from terrain and support bonuses, that crossbow had no chance against my legion with its gazillion bonuses of its own. Scratch the most dangerous unit currently on the field for teh. Then in the south, I had my legion attack that poor unfortunate spearman with another ridiculous +30 strength differential of its own. The legion cleaned up that kill and earned a promotion at the expense of about 10 damage taken. Two more units off the board for teh.

With my turn starting to wind down, I went ahead and swapped the position of my two northern crossbows. This moved the damaged two-promotion unit back a tile into a safe position, where I took a potshot at the city of Frankfurt. Note that the city was now under siege, so even getting minimal chip damage like that was worthwhile (and hey, more experience on that crossbow too!) The healthy crossbow now on the horse pasture then took a nice shot at the German horseman unit southeast of Frankfurt, resulting in major chunk damage; it lost about 60% of its health and will be easy prey for another followup crossbow shot next turn if it stays in range. Then I had the legion northeast of Frankfurt attack the city itself, which dropped it down to about 2/3 health remaining. I think officially it's something like 119/200 HP right now, and it shouldn't be able to heal between turns due to the siege. Finally, taking advantage of the 5 movement points granted by the Great General, my horseman unit in the backlines was able to scamper all the way over to that jungle tile in the east and occupy it to prevent any shenanigans by teh's new full-health horseman in his own backlines.

Here was the final result:

Teh's army is in bad shape. I killed six total units this turn: 3 archers, 1 crossbow, 1 horseman, and 1 spearman. I also did some serious damage to the city of Frankfurt and chunked one of his new horseman units into the red. I think that was an appropriate measure of revenge for losing my own horseman between turns. Out of all the units on the field, that was probably the least valuable one. Horses only cost 80 production and don't immediately upgrade into something useful (they upgrade into cavalry, not knights). I would prefer to keep my legions and archers alive for upgrading into muskets and crossbows respectively. I think that I'm going to delay Stirrups tech slightly so that I can build a couple of chariots and then upgrade them into knights. 2 or 3 knights would be very nice indeed at continuing to break through teh's defenses, and would be useful against the city states too.

Frankfurt should fall next turn barring something unexpected happening. I'm curious again how teh will play this; he can kill my southern legion if he wants to do so, but it will likely cost him all of the units in the area if he chooses to do so, and I don't know if that's a good trade for him. Retreating might be the best option, although he might not be able to retreat either. He's in a very tough spot here. Without patting myself on the back too much here, I think this pincer attack has gone off almost perfectly thus far. I was able to hit teh in time before he had city walls in Frankfurt or more than a single crossbow in this region. Another 5 turns and it likely would have been multiple crossbows and much heavier losses for me. Chalk this up to good timing again.

Now that was more like it. This was the first turn in the conflict against me where teh made some notable tactical mistakes; in particular, pausing to rest some of those redlined archers was a puzzling decision. Units heal 15 HP/turn in your own territory, but that was useless with my own melee units in range to attack and deal out close to 100 HP of damage per attack. I was able to use an effective combination of ranged and melee units here to pound on teh's defensive formation, battering it and threatening to break through. This was the largest scale combat that the game had yet seen between two human armies, and Civ6's gameplay was delivering on its promise.

Frankfurt braced itself for yet another battle over who would control the city, and it had a surprise in store for the Roman attackers:

Sullla: I was wondering if teh would manage to kill any of my units between turns and... oh come on! Frankfurt finished city walls between turns and then shot and killed my two-promotion crossbow. One turn before I was about to capture Frankfurt too! OK, well played and all that, but seriously - argh. I was a little bit surprised that none of my other units were finished off, neither of the two legions in somewhat exposed position falling to teh's remaining units. The two-promo legion in the most advanced position took a lot of damage, but that's why you put those legions in the front line. 40 base strength + 5 strength (Great General) + 4 strength (Oligarchy) + 4 strength (support bonus from nearby units) + the two promotions depending on what was attacking him... it adds up. Where's that image that antisocialmunky posted of the Roman legionary with shield?

Yeah, something like that. Now let's get down to the business of cracking the remaining defenses here.

I started in the south again versus that exposed chariot. Archer shoots first followed by the crossbow finishing it off. Why do things that way, when the crossbow could have gotten the kill by itself? Well, the archer didn't have anything else to do on this turn, and note how the XP bar was almost full. Since I didn't need the extra shot from the archer, I milked additional XP and a free promotion this way. Of course, I also could have used this turn to promote the crossbow (which also has the XP bar filled up and won't gain any more XP until it promotes) but I figured I could do that next turn. Anyway, one unit easily eliminated.

Next up I had the legion with the battering ram attack Frankfurt itself, and that took out the walls in one blow. Sheesh, battering ram. I guess that with Frankfurt having only strength 26, the walls didn't really do that much to stop the legion's 40-something strength. (By the way, how valuable has that battering ram been in this game? Worth its weight in gold.) Then with the walls down, I shot at the city center with this crossbow to get a bit of free damage. I would have preferred to shoot the redlined horseman, but this crossbow didn't start its turn within the Great General's range, and therefore only had 2 moves instead of 3. Frankfurt was the only target this unit could reach.

Then I went for the city captured with the legion to the west of the city. Based on the mouseover damage (in the top right), I thought this would take Frankfurt. Instead, I came up just short. However, that may have actually been for the best, as it allowed my heavily damaged legion to capture the city and therefore sit in the protected city center tile. That legion will be able to start healing at the maximum +20 HP next turn, and get back into the fight that much sooner. It's getting close to a third promotion now, and has probably been my best unit of the game thus far.

Just a little more mopping up to do at the end of the turn here. With Frankfurt in my possession, I could move the northern crossbow two tiles south and then be in a position to finish off this German horseman, leaving only the yellow horseman still alive. I then considered taking the horse versus horse battle but the odds didn't seem good enough to make it worthwhile. Instead I moved the horse unit down the south, in an attempt to reposition it to the bottom side of my formation. I did this for two reasons: to clear out room for my legions moving up in the north, and to spring the horseman to go pillage teh's iron resource down to the south. Teh just lost his second horse resource at Frankfurt, which means that he can only build swords and crossbows right now. If I pillage his iron, he'll be left building nothing but crossbows, and I'm well equipped to handle them.

Here was the final tactical map:

The one unit I don't love the position of is that horseman; it's not the unit I would choose to be in the front like that. However, none of my legions could get onto that tile this turn, and the horse does have the Great General bonus along with +6 defense from unit support bonus (although that only works against direct attacks, not ranged attacks). Still, I think the unit will be able to survive the turn OK. In fact, I could make a fair claim that I'm baiting teh here; any unit of his that attacks from that Hansa tile east of the horse will get shot to death in return on my next turn. We'll see what he chooses to do. I did upgrade another archer to crossbow this turn, replacing the unit that I lost this turn (not really of course). I should have something like 5 legions and 4 crossbows ready to push further into teh's territory in a few turns.

In the total battle for Frankfurt over these last few turns, I lost one horseman and one crossbow - with that last crossbow dying in silly circumstances this turn. I almost got away with losing only a single unit. In turn, I killed 6 units last turn and 3 more units this turn. Total accounting of German units killed is 4 archers, 1 crossbow, 1 spear, 2 chariots, and 2 horseman by my tally, along with the capture of Frankfurt itself of course. Based on power tracking, teh's military appears to have been crushed over the last few turns: 323 power (T99) to 241 power (T100) to 142 power (T101). He's lower than Yuris now, who has been sitting around 190 power for the last half-dozen turns with no movement. I am going to reposition my units and heal next turn, and then go for the kill against Mainz starting on Turn 104. The city defenses alone won't last long against the kind of power I'm fielding, so unless teh can magic up an army from somewhere in the next couple of turns, it may be the beginning of the end for him.

The full scale clash between the Roman and German armies therefore left me in control of the field and with teh's forces significantly reduced. These turns were highly entertaining for me to play, and while that was obviously due in part to the fact that I was winning the struggle, it also reflected the success of the Civ6 combat system. We had what felt like a genuine tactical wargame taking place here, with factors like terrain, unit support bonuses, and so on having major influence on the combat. I still believe that the One Unit Per Tile mechanic is a bad fit for the large-scale scope of the Civilization series, but if you're going to have it in place, Civ6 at least makes it work reasonably well. It's a shame that the AI still has no clue how to use this system, as it seems to be pretty solid for human vs human Multiplayer contests.

At this point I had now broken through teh's border city and inflicted serious losses to his army. His core of Hansa-toting German cities still remained intact though, and working through the formidable geographic barriers in this corner of the pangea to capture them would not be an easy task. Furthermore, Yuris was still lurking around on the northern edge of the map, ostensibly my ally and trading partner but not someone who I particularly trusted. This game still had one more major dramatic turn yet to come.