Realms Beyond PBEM17: Meeting the Neighbors

In the first part of this report, The Black Sword took advantage of a lush map and the Cree's early game trade route bonuses to rocket out to a fast start. As we'll see here, he continued developing his position over the following turns as the first districts and city governors came into play. The world also began to open up as more of the players met one another and diplomacy began in earnest between rival civilizations. There was a gap in the Cree reporting for seven turns before TBS provided a series of new posts starting on Turn 42:

The Black Sword:
I've been waiting for my Pantheon to come in before figuring out a plan and updating. As expected I didn't have many options available to me. Divine Spark has apparently been nerfed from what I remember - you need to build a library as well as a campus to get the bonus now, so that seemed too weak. The only two decent options were God of Craftsman (+1 hammer, +1 faith on strat resources) and Goddess of the Hunt (+1 food, +1 hammer on camps). I only have 1 camp right now but I can quickly pick up 4 more in my first 3 cities, and at least a couple more truffle camps after that. In comparison I have 3 horses and will probably discover 3 iron tiles somewhere in my territory to be affected by Craftsman. Faith sucks, food is better, so I'm going with the Goddess. 10 extra yield from my pantheon actually sounds pretty strong to be fair.

Since the last update I've completed my campus and units, switched to Colonisation and started on some settlers. The campus seemed to put me at top bpt [beakers per turn] for a moment until Cornflakes took the first Pingala promotion. I'll be taking the culture promotion for Pingala first instead to speed me along to a turn 50 Political philosophy. Sounds pretty decent for no Pantheons or city states helping me.

The most obvious continuation to this line is spend the time between State Workforce and Political Philosophy in Colonisation again, to finish off the settler in Windrunner and build another in Bondsmith. I eventually decided against this though, because more settlers just don't seem to have that great of return right now. Instead I'll get 2 builders out of Bondsmith under the policy card and the probably start the Government Plaza in Windrunner ASAP, delaying the completion of that settler. These things just seems way too good to skip. For example just the truffle camp in the capital will add +1 amenity (+3-4 yield), +1 food/+1 hammer/+2 gold on the tile and +1 food/+1 gold on the trade route. The government Plaza will add +1 hammer, +1 food on the trade route and +6 beakers from adjacency bonus & Pingala promotion. I want to snowball food hammers now but that is just nuts for ~52 hammers. I'm thinking we can switch back into Colonisation at PP [Political Philosophy] and chop the settler to completion, saving 20 hammers on the build, this probably delays the settler 3 turns.

After this I'm looking at getting Ancestral Hall in Windrunner, might even be able to time it so that the 4th city gets the free builder, while the capital occupies itself with the Temple of Artemis. The temple gets +3 food directly (in the Pingala city), +8 amenities and 44 culture from the civic inspiration. That sounds better than a settler to me and the timing should roughly work that I'm free for a big settler push as the Ancestral Hall comes in. Given how large the map is, I'm fairly happy with delaying claiming land to just make the best snowball plays.

There was a lot going on here worthy of further commentary. For starters, TBS had just picked up his pantheon by reaching 25 accumulated faith. He hadn't met any Religious city states and had no faith-generating abilities as the Cree which resulted in being one of the last players to pick from the pantheon list. Fortunately there was still a powerful choice available in Goddess of the Hunt: +1 food and +1 production on camps. Normally Goddess of the Hunt is pretty mediocre but this fertile map seemed to have plenty of deer resources in the Cree homeland, not to mention a pair of truffles tiles to the north of Bondsmith. Given that TBS wanted to settle for camp resources anyway to make use of the Cree trade route bonus, this was a natural pairing. Just look at the tile yields resulting from the deer camp at Bondsmith:

3 food, 4 production, and 2 gold - wow! Those truffles tiles would similarly have 2 food / 4 production / 5 gold yield once they were improved, no wonder TBS wanted to get a builder in place to add camps. Down to the south, one thing that these screenshots didn't manage to capture was the building of a Campus district on the tile to the west of the Government Plaza marker (just under the minimap in the above image). TBS started the Campus and proceeded to finish it in between his posts and therefore never actually showed Bondsmith building the district. This was another smart decision, as the Campus had +4 beaker adjacency bonus and nearly doubled his current science rate while also boosting State Workforce civic. The plan at the moment was to build the Government Plaza in the second city of Windrunner once that civic finished researching, but TBS would later cancel that decision and produce the Government Plaza in his capital instead. More on that in a moment.

Two cities on Turn 42 isn't a particularly fast rate of expansion in Civ6. However, TBS had been using these previous turns to crank out some key infrastructure (the Campus district, a monument, the second trader, etc.) He was waiting for the arrival of the Colonization policy and its +50% production bonus on settlers, setting up a civics swap to drop God King as soon as his civilization had finished stocking 25 faith for pantheon purposes. This avoided inefficiently training settlers without the Colonization card in place followed by double settlers out of both cities once it was enacted. This wouldn't work on a smaller, more congested map with nearby neighbors but the PBEM17 map was spacious enough that there was no pressure to move quickly on expansion. TBS was doing an excellent job of linking together his civics research and policy setup with his production queues in both cities.

One other thing to note here was the selection of Pingala for the first governor. City governors were added in the first Rise and Fall expansion of Civ6 and they're one of the best additions to the gameplay in the expansions (if somewhat micro-heavy to use effectively). Governors can be assigned to any city with a 5 turn delay to "move" to that location and they provide various benefits to the city while stationed there. In the initial Rise and Fall expansion, Magnus was luducriously overpowered as a governor since he added +100% to chopping/harvesting yields and this was under the old overflow mechanics where the entirety of that production would apply to the next item in the build queue. Players could chop a galley with the Maritime Industries production card in play (+100% production on naval units) along with Magnus and then get 150 production overflow into anything they wanted. Ridiculous.

Here in Gathering Storm, Magnus has been nerfed down to +50% for chopping/harvesting and production overflow has been super duper nerfed such that only the base production will overflow into the next item in the queue. Take this example from CivFanatics, producing an archer with Agoge policy (+50% production on melee/ranged units) and chopping for a base of 30 hammers:

Overflow Mechanics Example:
1) Production currently 35/60. Chop yields 30 + 15 bonus. Archer completes with 5 overflow (used 25/30 base)
2) Production currently 50/60. Chop yields 30 + 15 bonus. Archer completes with 20 overflow (used 10/30 base)
3) Production currently 25/60. Chop yields 30 + 15 bonus. Archer completes with no overflow (only bonus production remains and is lost)
4) Production currently 10/60. Chop yields 30 + 15 bonus. Archer now at 55/60.

In the original non-expansion versions of Civ6, all of the production would overflow into the next build regardless of any modifiers in play. Here in Gathering Storm, only the *BASE* production will overflow and everything else will get wasted. Look at example #2 above where the player chops for 45 production on a build with 10 hammers missing and only gets 20 overflow instead of 35 overflow. I don't want to get too technical here but it's important to understand how the mechanics have changed since it results in major shifts in the gameplay. In earlier versions of Civ6, the ideal result was to build something to near-completion with a production bonus policy card in play and then chop for huge overflow into the next build. In Gathering Storm, chops/harvests should only be used when they will *NOT* complete the item in question to avoid having overflow production wasted. This is a huge change and it completely alters how city production needs to be managed.

Anyway, this was a roundabout way of explaining that Pingala now seems to be the ideal early governor in Gathering Storm, not Magnus as before. Pingala's governor abilities were pretty terrible in Rise and Fall before getting significantly buffed in Gathering Storm. The default Pingala ability is a 15% increase in science and culture in his stationed city, decent without being great. The real power comes from Pingala's next two promotions: Connoisseur is +1 culture per turn for each pop point in the city and Researcher is +1 beaker per turn for each pop point. Since these are flat bonuses instead of percentage bonuses, they have their maximum power in the early game and slotting a triple promoted Pingala in the capital city seems to be one of the most effective strategies for Civ6 Multiplayer. Think about it: the entire Cree civ was making 10 beakers and 6 culture per turn at the time of the screenshots above. A triple promoted Pingala in size 5 Bondsmith would be worth 5 * 1.15 = 5.75 beakers and culture per turn, a massive increase in both categories, and would only scale further as the game continued and the capital gained more population and more science/cultural output. Players who picked other governors in the early game would struggle to match the same science and cultural research.

Elsewhere on the map, the one Okihtcitaw who was still conducting deep scouting found two things of importance. The first was the presence of several more city states, enough to reach the boost for Political Philosophy and continuing speeding ahead to the first governments. TBS received no free envoys as all of these city states had already been met long ago by other players, however he did have the good fortune to roll the "construct a Government Plaza" quest at Militaristic city state Akkad. That was something that his civ was going to be doing anyway in the near future and an easy envoy for +2 production on units in the capital would be a nice little bonus. The other important discovery was meeting Kaiser's Greece in the far northeast of the continent. Kaiser was significantly closer to Cornflakes' Rome and this led to a natural pairing between the Cree and the Greeks. No one wanted to be run over by Roman legions and their civs were the two most likely targets. While this was an AI Diplomacy game with no communication allowed outside offers on the trade screen, there was the potential for these two civs to work together down the road against a common opponent.

Turn 45 was a busy turn with iron appearing on the map, the first new settler finishing in the capital, and a volcanic eruption that forced TBS to shift his plans:

The Black Sword:
I spent quite some time deliberating over city 4. This spot is the most immediately productive site, with a 5 yield and 4 yield in the first ring and the crazy truffles tile in the 2nd ring, that will be 3/3/5 once improved. It also does a decent job of claiming land in the Roman direction while being pretty defensible; it can support a first line of defense at the tree line to the north or it has the river to protect it if I need to fall back. The long term dotmap might miss a tile or 2 but that seems a fair price to pay.

Iron has turned up in 3 decent spots. I'll probably want to buy and mine the capital's one to eureka the Wheel tech. I'm hopeful a trade route from city 4 will pick up Windrunner's source. Unfortunately, it means my border is going to pop in that direction rather than towards the deer while I wait. I plan for another city 1W of the final source in the south. It's a decent spot with short travel time to Windrunner, but it is backlines, so I don't really know one way or the other when I will fit it in.

The final piece of news - the volcano blew up my sheep! I didn't even know that could happen. So much for my hopes of a grand trade route city in Windrunner ... I decided to change plans after that, I'll make the capital the primary trade route city and build the government plaza there instead. Arguably I should have just be doing that anyway, super-late game planning be damned. I'm telling myself that the game will probably be over by the time I want to transition Magnus from chopping to TR [trade route] boosting, but my inner builder was looking forward to it.

That means I need to re-plan things a bit. Getting both an Ancestral Hall and the Temple of Artemis in my capital might be difficult. I'll need to have a think about priorities. For the moment I'm going Builder -> Plaza in the cap and Settler -> Builder in Windrunner. It's about time for some Mekewaps to deal with housing issues (and get me this golden age). To be honest I should have got a new builder before the settler for city 4, I was too excited for +50% HAMMERS !!!!

I also didn't know that volcanic eruptions could destroy resource tiles - those poor sheep! TBS made a good decision here in the wake of the fiery explosion, choosing to build the Government Plaza in the capital instead of the second city and use Bondsmith as the main destination for his trade routes. (The Government Plaza adds +1 food and +1 production to trade routes so it needed to be constructed at whichever location was going to be the trade route hub.) It was better to build the Government Plaza at the capital simply because it could be finished much faster there, and having the district done at a sooner date would increase the snowball effects from having another governor promotion for Pingala and getting the Ancestral Hall into play sooner. Thus Bondsmith would become the big trade route center for the rest of the game, not the original (slower) plan to use Windrunner.

TBS also picked out the location of his next two cities for the two settlers under production. The "city 3" spot was absurdly strong in terms of terrain, on a plains hill with a pair of spices in the first ring and then truffles, deer, sheep, and horses in the outer rings. TBS mentioned that this would have been the location of his second city if he had scouted out the area earlier, and it was clear that this city was going to be a monster down the road. The "city 4" location was another strong spot with a 3 food / 2 production bananas tile in the first ring and then a truffles tile in the second ring which would have 3 food / 3 production / 5 gold yield once improved thanks to the Goddess of the Hunt pantheon. TBS was able to settle all of his early cities to take advantage of his pantheon and score crazy-good tile yields immediately.

En route to settling these two locations, TBS finally encountered the last remaining player on his continent: TheArchduke of Russia. This was the neighbor to the north and some rough terrain had kept both of them from running into one another throughout the early turns of the game. TheArchduke had founded the first religion of the game, as expected for a Russia player, and was stockpiling huge amounts of faith for use in an upcoming Golden Age. He had the highest empire score in the game (albeit somewhat deceptive because the Russia unique Lavra district counts double for score purposes) and good science/culture output as compared to the other players. It was immediately apparent that TheArchduke was going to be one of the major competitors in terms of winning the game.

Back at home, TBS was training a builder in his capital city with the intention of chopping some of the forested hills. He needed some mines for the Apprenticeship tech bonus down the road, and by chopping several forests it opened up the potential to finish the Government Plaza quickly for the third governor promotion. In fact, TBS thought that he could finish not only the Government Plaza but the tier 1 government building as well, the Ancestral Hall. This is by far the best of the three tier 1 government building options, granting +50% production towards settlers in the city and, more importantly, a free builder in every new city! TBS was trying to line up the completion of the Ancestral Hall on Turn 54 so that he could score the free builders in both of his new cities. This would require more chopping than he could do with a single builder though, and therefore TBS sent out offers to Rome and Russia of 3 gold/turn over the next 30 turns for 70 gold immediately. Somewhat surprisingly, this deal was accepted by Cornflakes on the next turn:

The Black Sword:
Rome straight up accepted my 70 gold for 3 gold/turn trade the previous turn, with no haggling. I was really surprised by that, both because I think the deal is more beneficial for me and because it gives me some soft assurances that legions aren't coming my way. This turn Iron showed up on Rome's diplo screen, so he can upgrade a warrior in a mere 5 turns. Anyway, do I want a DoF [Declaration of Friendship] to skip the Roman Legion power period? Of course. The only consideration is whether he can use the DoF to stuff an unfair border city down my throat. So I had a think about the border above, and I think a) it's unlikely he will and b) if he could, I couldn't stop him anyway without the DoF. All he needs is a warrior escort to deal with my warrior, there's no way I can get a bigger force together in 5 turns when he can upgrade his Legion and the place would become untakeable. As for why it is unlikely anyway, I set a mark down for a decent front city - plains hill plant, 5 yield tile first ring. If he settles there, that's fine. The next good place to settle is really the X I have put down for my border city. Anywhere else is a pretty big loss in city output (even that spot is worse, but it claims good land). If he has a settler in position right now he could beat me to that spot. But he can't know where my settler is. He should know I have 2 out if he's tracking population, or just by assumption since I only have 2 cities right now. If he moves toward my X, he risks losing 3+ turns of city production if I settle a spot to invalidate his. Regarding settling south of the lake - that's just too weak an area to prioritise right now.

So in the end Rome was fairly straightforward, Russia on the other hand...

Here's the setup. Russia's warrior has to be on geothermal vent or horses. In a vacuum I'm not inclined to give them a DoF. Keeping my options open mostly, there's got to be a temptation to forget the military backup when you are monumentality buying settlers. It also isolates Greece since I've got the DoF with Rome too, and we're natural allies on this continent. On the other hand ... I have this settler out and he doesn't need to settle until Turn 54 anyway so he gets a free Ancestral Hall builder. Why not just push him up and claim my own unfair border city? The biggest argument against this idea is how awesome that double spice spot is. The city states and the lake look exactly like the border region with Russia and the distances match up too. Do I think they have their own settler out? No, I'm worried about Rome because they've built 0 districts and had early access to colonisation. I don't believe Russia could have built a 4th settler to beat my 3rd coming of the capital. Plus he didn't even know I existed 3 turns ago, he couldn't really plan this. In the end I decided to go for it, I will smash out a 3 turn settler from the capital after the Ancestral Hall with the +100% bonus and use that to settle the spices. It's downright cruel to delay the spot that really should have been my city 2 until past Turn 60 but the saved travel time will probably make up for the reduced yields. There looks to be some decent tiles at the edge of the fog too.

TBS therefore decided that he would use both of these settlers to lock down the border with each neighbor. The eastern settler would head to the original "X" spot and TBS was content to concede anything further east beyond that to Cornflakes. This was not a period to be clashing with Rome when they had their unique unit in play. Cornflakes arguably made two mistakes here, first accepting the offer to trade 70 flat gold for 3 gold/turn and then again by offering a Declaration of Friendship. Immediate gold in hand is worth much more than a trickle of gold over the next 30 turns and TBS used this cash infusion for an immediate builder purchase in the capital. The Declaration of Friendship similarly ensured that neither side could declare war for the next 30 turns, granting a perfectly timed period of reprieve from the possibility of a legion attack. By the time that Turn 80 rolled around, knights and crossbows would be on the scene to counter the Roman unique units. It was a strange decision to rule out even the possibility of an attack.

As for TheArchduke's Russia, TBS needed to delay settling for a few turns anyway so that he could complete the Ancestral Hall in his capital. He therefore decided to walk the settler further north and grab a city location in the disputed border zone with Russia. TheArchduke had also offered a Declaration of Friendship so there was no immediate risk to making an aggressive city plant, not with both sides unable to declare war for the next 30 turns. As it turned out, there was a natural desert border between the Cree and Russia and TBS wasn't stealing away any territory that would have otherwise belonged to his northern neighbor. Nevertheless, the decision-making process was sound here even if it didn't end up producing an advantage.

With the help of three forest chops from a pair of builders, the Ancestral Hall finished on Turn 54 at the capital of Bondsmith:

TBS had no screenshots at all of the Ancestral Hall under construction since he managed to finish it in three turns, extremely impressive for a building that costs 150 production. Bondsmith was already an amazing city pushing 20 production/turn and then the triple forest chops did the rest of the work from there. Note the stellar science/culture yields at the top of the screen from having a triple promoted Pingala in the capital at an early date. The completion of the Ancestral Hall even granted another governor promotion, which TBS used to take Liang and begin installing her in one of his new cities. Liang's default ability is to grant +1 builder charge to any builders completed in her city, and TBS would spend the rest of the game moving her around to pick up that extra builder charge wherever possible. More importantly, the Ancestral Hall also granted a free builder in each of the two new cities founded:

The intention at Skybreaker had been to construct one of the Cree Mekewaps on the floodplains tile southeast of the city. Unfortunately here TBS ran into an undocumented change in Gathering Storm that prevents Mekewaps from being constructed on floodplains tiles, not that the interface in-game ever mentions this. (The documentation for Civ6 has been poor ever since release; I do not understand how a flagship strategy game title can be so sloppy in this regard.) TBS had to fall back on a farm instead which at least would help push towards the boost for Feudalism civic. Skybreaker only had "good" terrain instead of obscenely powerful terrain and it would develop a bit slower than some of the other Cree cities.

Lightweaver, on the other hand, was pure nuts from the outset. TBS immediately purchased the truffles in the second ring and used his free builder to improve it into a 3/3/5 tile. The city also had the 3/2 bananas tile in the first ring and a bunch of plains hill tiles to mine for additional production as it grew. But that wasn't even including the real star of the show: the trade route. Windrunner's initial trade route from the beginning of the game had just run out and TBS redirected it over to the new city of Lightweaver where it would run a new route to the capital. Thanks to the Campus district, the Government Plaza, and a trio of camp/pasture improvements, that trade route was instantly worth 6 food / 2 production / 3 gold each turn. Holy cow! As TBS mentioned in one of his posts, Lightweaver would hit size 4 in the span of half a dozen turns and instantly become a mature city outputting 15 production per turn. He already had the city on military builds to help with the next strategic objective. Oh, and the trader would also culturally acquire four or five tiles as it moved over towards the capital city so that they wouldn't need to be purchased down the road. This was completely crazy in terms of developing a new city; no one aside from the Cree could have pulled this off.

Between the trade routes and the free builders from the super-fast Ancestral Hall, the game was snowballing at a rapid pace. How would the other players respond? The next bone of contention would center around the city states and who could incorporate them into their empires the fastest.