Realms Beyond PBEM1: Conclusion

Or maybe not. On the next turn after seeing his army decisively crushed, Yuris requested an end to this PBEM game: "I'm happy to concede. Or are you still kicking teh?" That was the long-awaited signal for this game to come to a conclusion. I had decided earlier that I wouldn't badger the other players into surrendering, but also that I would move to end things as soon as requested. Much as I would have liked to take the last German city and then push into Yuris' core, it was clear that this game had been over for some time now, and the dramatic slowdown in turn speed in the last week of the game indicated that teh and Yuris weren't having fun any longer. I went ahead and posted in the Organizing thread that I was fine with calling the game, and that was that.

Yuris was kind enough to play another turn so that I could get the save file back one more time and write a final turn report:

Sullla: Ha, it turns out that teh completed a crossbow in his last city at the beginning of this turn. I can't say that I was expecting that, although teh's Hansas did a wonderful job of giving him strong production everywhere in his empire. If he had been given a little bit more time (and land) to develop, I think he could have given me a run for my money. If you're reading this teh, you played an excellent game. Anyway, I decided that I might as well play this final turn out as though it were a real one. I moved up my crossbows and had them fire on Ulm, then attacked with the legion:

Pretty good damage, although that crossbow popping up in the city just as I moved to attack it was a bit of bad luck. At defensive strength 28, I might have been able to capture the city this turn, although it would have required some good damage rolls. At defensive strength 35, it wasn't going to happen. Teh would have died on the next turn, but Yuris' concession allows him to survive by the narrowest of margins.

There was one war that I could wrap up. With Theology civic in hand, I had one final envoy to play around with. I fired on this sword with the city walls at Aquileia because I could, then checked to see if the horseman would do enough damage to get the kill. Since it was short of eliminating the unit, I went ahead and dropped the city state envoy into Vilnius. That gave me 4 envoys there, the same as Yuris, and brought peace in our time to the southern part of the pangaea. Vilnius was a good ally against teh earlier, and I'm glad that I was able to bury the hatchet with them on this last turn.

One final policy swap to carry out. I kept the same policies in the Military, Economic, and Diplomatic slots, only opting to change up the Wildcard ones. Professional Army was back in the mix to allow my legions to upgrade into muskets, and then for the last slot, I went ahead with Serfdom since I planned to be training more builders before reaching Humanism, my next civic. None of this really matters of course, but this is what I would have done if the game continued.

There we go, turning legions into muskets at the very discounted rate of 100 gold apiece. I had five total legions on the map, and with 460 gold in the bank, I would be able to upgrade all of them in a turn or two. (Probably would take two more turns since the muskets are more expensive than the legions in upkeep, and therefore my income dropped as I made the upgrades.) Muskets are another significant step up in power, with a strength rating of 55. This two promotion guy had Battlecry and Tortoise to further help out, plus the new Great General, so he would attack at strength 67 against other melee/ranged units, and defend against ranged attacks with a strength of 70. Just as legions mostly shrugged off archers, these muskets would have been able to walk through crossbow bolts without worrying overmuch.

I did have one other combat to resolve:

And thus the saga of the random wandering Eagle Warrior was finally put to rest. From Yuris' perspective this was a tragedy, although from my perspective it was more of a comedy.

Some final overview shots of my territory. The German cities would have come out of resistance next turn, and they would have been very powerful with all those Industrial districts (former Hansas) captured intact. By my best estimate, I would have seen my science jump up to roughly 75 beakers/turn and my culture to a mark just slightly less. Aachen in particular was a really nice city, with three districts and a library already constructed in the Campus district. Given time to construct Baths and a dozen or so turns of development, I could have turned these cities into huge powerhouses. In other words, continuing what teh was already doing when I captured them from him. He did a great job with planning the districts in this region.

On the Aztec front, there was essentially no army left to speak of. Yuris appears to have had that initial wave, and once that disappeared, that was it. Since Yuris' cities were weak in production, I don't think he would have had time to build another army, plus without a second iron resource he couldn't even construct more knights. (Did he have Machinery tech for crossbows? I still don't know.) This is definitely the right place to call the game, as there's no point in playing another week to watch my units walk up to Yuris' capital and take it for the outright Domination victory. With the Aztec army defeated, there really wasn't anything left to stop me. (Yuris' military power rating on the last turn was 145, down from a high of 384 a few turns earlier. If you tallied up the strength rating of all my units, those recent horse builds pushed me up to almost 800 rating. Yeah, pretty much over and done with as a contest.)

Also: my second Great General finally transferred over to the front lines this turn... and then the game ended without him getting a chance to see combat. Poor Temujin!

Former northern Rome. I feel like I didn't get a chance to develop this area properly since I had to focus on the wars against first teh and then Yuris. Mostly these cities had completed their Bath districts (or nearly so) and then the first wave of builders had just completed as the time on the game ran out. One consequence of the Bath districts is that my population in these cities was growing quite fast. The builder labor was following pace, and the next set of traders was going to boost these cities further. I especially wish I'd gotten more of a chance to develop Stockholm, which would have been a very powerful city once it completed its Bath district and chopped/mined the remaining grassland hill tiles. I was able to get some development done at Arpinum, and I have to say that the city location was much better than I thought at first glance. TheArchduke was right: it was indeed a spot worth settling after all.

And here is the original core of cities with the score display. Roma was making 37 production/turn at the end of the game; I planned to have it crank out some more traders once it finished that market (which would have boosted Guilds civic). Poor Ravenna was a great population sink all game, but never completed a single district. I always had more important things for it to be working on than a district, and for this short game, that strategy worked out. I produced a lot of builders out of that location throughout the game. Arretium and Arpinum were just great cities for me throughout the game, and I was very happy with how both of them developed. Especially Arretium, which was a low-food city that I managed to grow to size 8 using my only Feudalism farming triangle of the game. Finally, Hispalis proved to be a solid city in its own right, early on producing those two galleys via a forest chop and then later completing a Commercial district, Bath, and market. Amazingly, I never quite got around to building a quarry on the stone resource - there was a builder one tile away on this last turn. Heh.

I'll close with a picture of the final "PYDT" rating, with my 500th saved image for this game. Everyone did an excellent job at keeping the save moving throughout this game, and we held a steady 2 turns per day pattern for almost two months in a row. It was a bit grueling at times, and this game did suck up a huge amount of my time, but I think it was worth it. I had a absolute blast playing this game, and I'm glad that this was entertaining for so many of the lurkers to read. I truly do appreciate the feedback and suggestions that were contributed to this thread. It was a pleasure, folks.

Before getting to some final thoughts, I wanted to include the endgame analysis from the other players. First a brief statement from TheArchduke:

TheArchduke: Things I learned. My sub-par laissez-faire gaming will not carry the day with the RB crowd. I will need more dedication, analysis and concentration to play this. This probably means, less speedy turns. Sullla is one nasty customer.

I will take that as a compliment! Thanks. Yuris posted a longer summary of how his game played out in his thread:

Yuris: So, what went wrong. Short answer: my game lacked focus. Which is not surprising, considering it's the main reason I haven't won a single game at RB yet (to be technically correct - not counting duel games)

Slightly longer answer:
* I couldn't decide if I wanted to be aggressive or not
* I failed to prioritise early builds properly
* I completely ignored great people and didn't get a single one in the whole game (Sulla and teh both had 3 when I checked around T100)

The clearest evidence of the first two issues is my decision to go Builder first. It's the old Civ4 habit which dies hard. In Civ6, same as in Civ5, early game tile improvements are so marginal that hammers spent on a Builder are not a worthwhile investment. Moreover, as an Aztec, I should've expected to get Builders in a different way. As a result of this early decision, I ended up building a Builder, then Jags, then a Settler - so the first 40 turns were spent building units. I did not get an extra source of culture until after T50, being last to adopt a proper government and get all the benefits to come with one.

Thinking back, the correct opening build was either a Monument if I wanted to play peacefully, or a Jag if I wanted to be aggressive. 2 Jags are capable of taking out a city on their own around T20, and I should've taken advantage of it. If I captured Lisbon 15 turns earlier, this game would've gone completely differently. In the mid-game, after I captured Lisbon and founded 2 cities of my own, there was no good reason to stop expanding. I didn't have enough military, but I should've had more. I'm an Aztec, Jags remain useful in the mid-game, but in my hand they ended up idly hanging out around teh's border for good 30 turns. That aggressive city he planted (Frankfurt) - I should've founded around that spot myself. I set out to play a wide game, as Aztecs tend to do, and failed to follow through even with this vague plan.

Finally, perhaps I should've known it, but when I decided to beeline the Knights, I didn't realise how freaking expensive they were. This whole plan was flawed, as despite my best attempts to set up a decent production base, I still needed 10-15 turns to finish one Knight. That's why that last attack was so desperate, reminiscent of Magic player attacking with all creatures the turn before he dies and hoping his opponent screws up blocks. I may have been the first to Stirrups - my science output was reasonable, unlike culture output - but I couldn't field Knights until Sulla got there as well. And turns out Knights don't even do that well against Legions.

There were some genuinely frustrating points about this game, Civ6's movement rules being one of the most obvious one. It's not just the movement points system - I can get used to that. Roads are my main source of frustration with Civ6. Logistics of getting a big army somewhere in Civ5 were bad enough - but no, Ed Beach had to go and make it harder - not only will units get in each other's way, but they will do so **slowly**. I thought roads being built by Traders was an interesting idea, I was interested in giving it a try.. I gave it a try, and can confidently say that it doesn't make the game better. Nor does removing most benefits roads give in other Civ games.

Nevertheless, it was a fun game. Wish I showcased Aztecs' strengths better.

Yuris and I exchanged a few posts after the game was over discussing some of the events that took place, and it was a pleasure to have the chance to read through this summary of his thoughts. Hopefully with more time and experience, his next Civ6 Multiplayer game will have a more successful result. I also very much wanted to get teh's thoughts on this game, but unfortunately he didn't post anything at all after about Turn 95, and disappeared after this game concluded. Teh, if you would ever happen to read this report, I would love to add your impressions to this conclusion page. Feel free to send them to me and I'll add them to this section.

I'll go through my own thoughts on the other players next, starting with TheArchduke:

TheArchduke: This was a first Multiplayer game of Civ6 for all of us, and I think it showed the most with TheArchduke. He was somewhat unfortunate in having the Roman mirror match in this game, which made a lot of his decisions look worse in retrospect. I think that the general plan that TheArchduke had was a good one: he wanted to expand out to a large number of cities to take advantage of Rome's free monuments and get ahead that way. TheArchduke ended up self-founding six cities in this game, which was the most of anyone. Given enough time for peaceful development, this might have worked out a lot better.

However, too many of the decisions that TheArchduke made ended up putting him behind in the wider competition. The decision to found the capital on the starting coastal tile was a significant blow, although I'll note that TheArchduke made the best of the situation by purchasing the plains hill tile nearby in the third ring. That helped him a ton and was the reason why northern Rome was able to expand so well. Investing in some additional early military wasn't necessarily a mistake either; the mistake was not leveraging those extra units to gain some kind of advantage. Too much of this game was spent playing passively from TheArchduke's perspective, just kind of waiting around for things to happen without having a clear plan in mind. When I read TheArchduke's spoiler thread, it was never clear to me how he planned to get ahead of the other players and win the game. Some of the lurkers also thought that TheArchduke became too depressed at an early stage of this game, and I sensed some degree of that as well. We could rehash the various mistakes that took place in this game - settling Mediolanum in a place that still allowed me to settle my own city nearby, failing to spot an attack incoming, giving up a strong defensive position unprompted - but I think the bigger issue was indeed one of mentality. It's better to have a bad plan than no plan at all, and overall northern Rome was simply too reactive in this game.

Yuris: Many of the same problems that affected TheArchduke also applied to Yuris in this game. His initial founding of his capital on the coast also put him behind from the start, and unlike TheArchduke he never managed to overcome the initial lack of production. Yuris did not purchase a hill tile for his capital, and didn't even research Mining tech early on. His subsequent lack of production crippled his gameplan, causing Eagle Warriors to take forever to build and slowing expansion to the point that his Aztecs ended up being completely locked out of the center of the map. Somewhat oddly, Yuris was the only player who actually captured the city state next to his start, and having another city gained effectively for free was a major help. On the other hand, by the time that his Eagle Warriors were healed and moved out towards the other players, any opportunity for an early game attack was lost. I still don't know if that was a net positive or net negative decision.

Yuris' biggest problem overall was a disconnect between his ambitions and the ability of his civ to achieve them. Unlike TheArchduke, Yuris was very willing to engage in bold, aggressive moves to come out on top. He attacked his next door city state, he attacked teh at a moment when Germany was exposed, and he attacked me with his knights at the end of this competition. However, most of these moves backfired because Yuris was too weak to take advantage of them and he hadn't done enough planning ahead of time. While I still believe the attack on teh was sound in principle, it was immediately doomed to failure because Yuris had only four units and nothing in production backing them up. Even though Yuris won many of the tactical trades with teh, the whole attack was strategically pointless since it never had a chance of taking and holding more territory. Yuris spent far too much time building districts with a marginal return value, in particular the Campus district that yielded all of 1 beaker/turn at the capital. When he made the decision to build knights at the end, he failed to realize that they required iron as a resource, or that they cost 180 production each. He also did not research toward the civic containing the policy that would have discounted their cost by 50%. And all of this was continually undercut by the critical lack of production that Yuris suffered under from Turn 1.

Yuris needed to be either more aggressive, building lots of units and planning to go to war much earlier than he did, or else less aggressive, backing off from invasions and focusing on teching upwards while letting the rest of the world duke it out. Instead, he pursued a middle of the road setup that failed to develop his military or his economy into a strength. Yuris also did a poor job of reading the wider metagame, a number of times taking actions that might have made sense in isolation but came off as confusing when viewed against the context of what the other players were doing. The best word that comes to mind is "unfocused"; this was an unfocused game where a lot was going on without ever adding up into some kind of big picture whole. Given how infrequently Yuris updated his spoiler thread, I'm not sure how much of his attention he was giving to this game. Much as Yuris himself said, I hope that if we see the Aztecs played again in one of these games, they'll be used in a more consistent fashion.

Teh: The main thing that I want to stress with regards to teh is that I think he had an excellent performance in this game, significantly better than the two northern civs. Teh mirrored many of the same decisions that I made in the early game, and not surprisingly we ended up with the strongest economic performances and the most cities in the crucial center of the map. The Hansa placements from teh were very well chosen, and he had an impressive production output even on a limited number of cities. Given more time and room to develop, his German civ could have become a monster. Unlike the other players, teh was paying close attention to the wider game environment and reacting accordingly. When Yuris began poking around with Eagle Warriors, teh built more slingers and upgraded them to archers in time to stave off a potential attack. He was immediately on top of my Great General play as soon as I began chasing it, and anticipated my attack. This is one of the main reasons why I opted to go after TheArchduke instead: teh already had a strong defensive force and attacking him would have been very difficult. Teh also controlled the city states well, snagged a key Great Person, and landed the second-best pantheon available for this map. He played a very solid game with few mistakes.

Unfortunately, teh was repeatedly the victim of bad luck. As Yuris' closest neighbor, he was forced to build more military in the middle stages of the game than he probably wanted to do, slowing his expansion to the fifth city on the southern coast. That mattered a lot because it delayed teh's acquisition of iron until a relatively late date. The biggest setback was of course Yuris' ill-advised attack against Frankfurt, which fatally delayed teh from continuing his push against me at Aquileia. That stopped the production of Hansas and Commercial disticts while tying up units that could have been better used against southern Rome. The ten turns of delay that Yuris forced on teh before signing peace left me just enough time to finish conquering TheArchduke and then envelop Germany in a huge pincer movement from north and south. Even the timing of my attack against teh was wretched, hitting him just after Machinery tech completed (therefore obsoleting archers as a build item) but before teh had enough time to upgrade or build crossbows. Given 5-10 more turns to prepare, I think he would have had enough crossbows to deter me from attacking him, and this game might have gone on considerably longer.

Teh's reporting was also extremely well done, as you've probably noted by the number of German screenshots that I used in this report. Teh pretty much disappeared from the forums after this game came to a close, but I really hope he comes back at some point for more Civ6 Multiplayer games. If anyone deserved better in this game, it was him.

While we're in the process of critiquing everyone's performance, here's my own self-evaluation following the conclusion of this game:

Sullla: In evaluating my own game, things generally went according to plan for the bulk of the game. If you look at those strategy posts on the first page of this report, things more or less played out the way that I hoped they would. I think that I came into this game with more experience at Civ6 than the other players (especially on this map), and I was able to implement what I wanted to do for the most part. Rather than pat myself on the back here further, I'm going to talk about what didn't go as I planned, and places where I think I could have improved on my gameplay.

* Early settling: the single worst decision that I made in this game was opting to settle the Ravenna spot before the Aquileia spot. I had a free claim on one of the most critical portions of the map, the double river valley on the western side of the continent, and I passed it up in favor of settling a closer and more conventional spot. I did this out of greed, because I was confident that I could land both locations before TheArchduke could get a single city settled. This was based on doing a lot of Demographics score tracking, and I ended up getting completely fooled when TheArchduke built a settler on the same turn that his capital grew a size. He would have beaten me to the middle of the map by a turn and locked me out of the double rivers region if he wanted; the fact that he took a spot by the bananas for Mediolanum was the biggest break in my whole game. This was a needless risk that I took and it could have torpedoed my whole game. Stupid.

* Harvesting resources: I didn't do much of this and I think it might have been something that could have improved my play. I did chop a good number of forests/jungle tiles, and that seemed to help me out a lot. I'm never quite sure when it's worthwhile to harvest resources and when it isn't. This is something that I need more practice with to get a sense of when it's a good idea and when it isn't. (In particular, harvesting some of those useless fish resources could have been really helpful.)

* Cities in dry locations: this is another place where I was proven wrong by the other players. I went into this game under the assumption that any city not placed on fresh water was fairly useless, and while that's generally true, two locations on the map did change my thinking. TheArchduke's city of Arpinum and teh's city of Frankfurt were both located in completely dry parts of the map and had the housing penalty at size 1. I thought these were essentially useless cities, and that was a mistake. Both of these were high production cities, and that made them very much worth having. A granary took both of them to 3 housing, and a pair of farms/plantations got them up to 4 housing, enough to work 3-4 tiles. And... frankly, that's all you need in Civ6 if those initial tiles are good ones, which both of these cities had. The lesson here is that if a city can work a handful of good tiles, it's worth establishing, end of story. The calculation changes depending on the size of the map and the number of good sites available, since all things being equal fresh water is still much MUCH better than no fresh water. But on a constrained map with few city locations available, these were good cities and well worth the settlers.

* City states: the city states had much more of an impact on this game than I expected. Whether it was the early envoy bonuses, Yuris conquering his nearby city state in contrast to everyone else, or the way that their units impacted the wars between the players, the city states proved to be hugely useful. I've been so critical of the city states in my writings about Civ5 (and to a lesser extent Civ6) that I have to acknowledge they really "worked" in this game. They did add to the experience of this game. Also unlike in Civ6 Single Player, the envoys were a vital resource and very important indeed. A lot of the time in Single Player it feels like, "yeah whatever another envoy, ho hum" but in this game it felt like everyone was going out of their way to grab the envoys. The whole mechanic added a lot of flavor to this game in a way I didn't expect.

* Military policies: they're really good. Full stop. In Civ6 Single Player, you get used to looking only at the Economic policies and thinking the Military ones are mostly garbage. (See this CivFanatics thread for a good example.) But that only holds true when you're up against an AI opponent that poses little to no threat militarily. Here in Multiplayer, those Military cards were super important: the ever-important Agoge for early unit production, Limes to build city walls and Bastions to buff up their strength, Conscription to keep the nation afloat economically, and Professional Army for the upgrades. The Military policies are actually balanced quite well with the Economic ones, it's just that Civ6 Single Player almost never faces a situation where there's any military danger, and this swings the relative worth heavily in favor of the Economy ones. I was surprised at just how much I found myself wanting Military policies, and getting frustrated at the lack of more Military slots in governments like Classical Republic.

* As a corollary to this, Oligarchy government is actually pretty darn good. All four of us were running it simultaneously at one point! Again, it only looks bad when up against a completely incompetent AI opponent. This was another surprise to me.

* Finally, this was my first chance to explore Civ6's tactical combat system in any kind of depth, and for the most part it's a good system. Unit positioning really matters, terrain matters, flanking/support bonuses matter, and even smaller differences in unit strength can be extremely important. The only thing holding back the entire combat engine is the horrendous Civ6 movement system, where everything takes too long to move and keeps getting stuck. Why Ed Beach insisted on this movement mechanic (which according to interviews everyone else on the design team hated and wanted removed) makes no sense to me. Without the Great General to boost the movement of all my melee units, I would never have been able to pull of the conquests that I did because my legions would have been tripping over one another the whole time. It's like the designers got 90% of this system working really well, and then flubbed the execution of the really basic and easy final 10% for absolutely no reason. I can't figure it out.

I learned so many little things playing this game that I can't even try to list them all. I appreciated all of the feedback and suggestions from the readers - as you were learning from me, I was learning from you. My Single Player and Multiplayer gameplay will both be much better as a result of this effort. Perhaps even more importantly, this game also achieved my hopes of igniting interest in Civ6 at Realms Beyond. The lurker thread for this game ended up with over 450 posts, a number that hadn't been achieved in a PBEM game on the website in years. My own spoiler thread wound up with 380 posts and just over 40,000 thread views. That would have left it in 9th place in terms of popularity when compared to all of our past Civ4 PBEM games, and even that underestimates things by a significant amount. Most of those other games lasted much longer, often running for eight months, ten months, or even over a full year in length. This game only lasted for a grand total of 75 days and still wound up as the most popular PBEM game on the website in the last two or three years. We also saw a huge surge of interest in the following Single Player Adventure for Civ6, going from one submission on the previous event to more than a dozen on the next event following the ending of this game. Although Civ6 may never become as popular as Civ4 at Realms Beyond, this was nonetheless a sea change in popularity for the game in our community, and hopefully a harbinger of more Multiplayer games yet to come. Civ6 PBEM2 is already up and running as I type this, and is shaping up to be a fascinating game in its own right.

This ended up being one of the longest reports I've ever put together for this website. I hope you enjoyed reading about it, and maybe you'll even be encouraged to try your own hand at Civ6 Multiplayer one day. Thanks and best wishes!

- Sullla, May 2017