Realms Beyond PBEM4: The Norwegian Campaign

In the previous section of this report, we looked at the opening strategies for the six different players and where they were situated at the end of the first 80 turns. The action was now beginning to heat up in earnest, with Singaboy's Germany launching an overseas invasion of Japper's Norway. This war would draw in nearly all of the remaining players before it was finished, decisively changing the balance of power in the PBEM4 contest.

Japper was not terribly worried upon seeing that he had been attacked by Singaboy:

Japper: WAAAAR!!! Singa hit my city of Midgard with two horses a warrior and an archer. I bought a warrior there and switched the city to walls, which complete in 9 turns. I'm hopefull I can hold him off, my city is across a river and I'll be able to smack his horsemen with the warrior and I have an archer in position next turn, with two more coming over the next few turns. I'm also rerouting my longships from scouting duty, they'll be there in about 5 turns too. As long as Singaboy doesn't get a siege blockade going, I'm confident I can hold my ground till the walls complete. Just to be sure the capital'll switch over to walls next turn, after it completes the watermill.

Internationally Oledavy promised support with his galleys which were in the area, with a relieve army on it's way. Maybe Archduke'll jump in if I can make Singaboy bleed enough for his conquest, though he might also try to grab some of our territory if we don't manage to hold Singaboy on the beaches.

Japper was hoping to defend inside Midgard, and rush-purchased a warrior inside the city. That tends to be a poor use of gold but this was an emergency situation for sure. From Singaboy's perspective, the invasion looked much different:

Singaboy: I open the save, wondering whether city defense has gone up. Excellent news is that it is still at strength 20. The weird thing is, it has a warrior in there. Either Japper produced a warrior all along or gold rushed one. I do hope it is the latter. His archer has moved SE, I would have thought, he would move SW to support Midgard from the rear. By the looks of it, he started a wall, though I doubt it will help him much now.

I start to attack the city with all three units, using the archer first to reduce damage of the horses. The result is a damage of 134 combined (this is a little less than average damage done by calculation). The city has a remaining health of 30/200 and will of course, stand at 50/200 at the next round of fights.

The truth of the situation was that Japper had virtually no units in the area to contest Singaboy's Great General-enhanced military. Viking longships might have been able to stop the German units from landing if they had spotted the attack in time, but it was too late at this point, with the enemy units already landed on Norwegian shores. This became apparent to Japper as soon as he opened up the save for Turn 88:

Japper: Well I'll just open the save and... WAAAT Welp, defending Midgard's a lost cause it seems... I pulled the warrior back, good thing I started on walls in my capital already eh? GG to Singaboy, that was a lot better then I expected to have facing me. Needless to say, Singaboy better eliminate me fully now, cause I'm not signing peace while he holds that city! I'll drag us both down to uncompetetive if I have to!

It was quite a change in stance from a turn earlier for poor Japper. His comment above was referring to the occupation mechanic in Civ6, which causes any captured city to remain highly unproductive until a peace treaty is signed or the original city owner is completely eliminated. In a Multiplayer game, there's always the possibility of never signing peace at all to punish an aggressor, and Japper was planning on taking that route with Singaboy. This would provide a strong incentive for Singaboy to continue the war until he could completely eliminate Japper from the game and thereby remove the occupation penalty from the Norwegian cities. This game mechanic would play a major role in the diplomacy surrounding the war.

To no one's surprise, Midgard was easily captured by Singaboy on Turn 89. The Norwegian units now began retreating backwards towards Japper's capital city of Asgard where they hoped to make a stand. All of this action was not going unnoticed by the other players, and oledavy's Japan in particular was trying to rally support for Norway amongst the other players. Oledavy immediately declared war on Singaboy and tried to use his galley in the area to delay the invasion, with little success, then sent these archers over to the Norwegian continent:

While three archers weren't a huge force, it was most of what Japan had available at the moment. More importantly, oledavy sent an iron resource to Japper, a horse resource, and 140 gold. That was enough to upgrade a warrior into a sword and increase the defensive strength of all the Norwegian cities, a very big deal indeed. It was in oledavy's interest to stop Singaboy from conquering Germany, and he attempted to convince the other players to join in an anti-Germany crusade in the diplomatic thread. However, Woden opposed these actions and accused oledavy of acting in bad faith. Woden kept pointing to the science output of oledavy's Japan, visible at 73 beakers/turn in the screenshot above, which was notably higher than anyone else in the game. This was Woden's logic as presented in his spoiler thread:

Woden: I am going to end this with a few comments on what is going on in the diplo thread and oledavy's comments. If he is worried about Germany maybe he should build military instead of going insane about science. I am not going to help him win the game. I think he is trying the same thing he did in PBEM2. He sees a threat but hopes somebody else takes care of it, while he builds away. I am not going to stop Germany from ingesting the Vikings, I have other things to work on that will help me get to my sweet spot and will help me when I get there. I am not worried about Germany getting embroiled in a conflict. Hell, I hope he takes the Vikings out, one less player to content with. I am a little worried that the Vikings are not going to put up much of a fight. I hope at least it takes him 20 or 30 turns to finish them off and not like 15. But the more of his excess production he puts towards war while I build up, the better. I do have a few things I am working towards that will help me content with his production. We will see what happens...

If you go over to the diplo thread, you can see that I am trying to get under oledavy's skin a little. From reading his PBEM2 thread, he is very chicken little (the sky is falling). Just a good time to irritate him a little, especially since we don't have another turn this afternoon. If he is so worried, he should do something about it. Much like PBEM2 with religion. Did he found a religion after the first time Russia came close to winning...No! He continued to play in his sandbox and relied on somebody else to prevent him from losing. I am not going to take on someone who has twice my production just because I have the 2nd biggest army and tehy are my neighbor. I am going to wait until I have an advantage. This is a strategy game, not a shooter. I will agree, Germany over taking the Vikings will definitely give him a great advantage but there are 6 players in this game. I am already planning for Germany to ingest his neighbor (hopefully not me). That is why I am planning on trying to get my production up so I can go and take something when I hit my sweet spot.

And to provide the counterpoint, oledavy in his spoiler thread:

oledavy: I mean, if Germany wins, none of us can win. I'm not so much trying to gin up conflict as prompt players to effectively counter-balance the player who is in danger of becoming a hegemon. Woden and Archduke are simply in much better positions to do something about Singaboy due to their being neighbors, and conversely will be the most under threat if he runs away with things. It feels like Woden is falling for the "If I just get X, then I'll finally be in position to take the lead in this game and overcome the game leader," trap. That philosophy worked extremely well for him in PBEM2... Sometimes, you just have to roll in with what you have at the moment. This isn't SP [Single Player], and players won't idle as you try to hit your power spike. The fire is happening now, and I don't have confidence in the Vikings (I sincerely hope to be proven wrong). Tragedy of the commons at work here people....

I swear, the diplo thread is really irritating me right now. I imagine to some extent it's just rhetoric, if Archduke does want to begin working against Singaboy, it makes little sense to broadcast it. However, from reading the thread, they are being blinded by science and playing right into Germany's hands. Then there's Woden. "I'm already playing as if Germany has ingested a neighbor." That doesn't make sense on multiple levels. If Germany does manage to just eat the Vikings, there is no counter to that, nothing you could have done in the meantime that would be better other than completely absorbing one of your neighbors, which I'm guessing Woden isn't doing. At any rate, I tried, time to take a break from it. Having no turn to play and just people being insufferable in the diplo thread is not good for my ability to play a good game. I will cease posting for awhile, other than to communicate with Japper007 if necessary. They can talk all they want about forming an alliance against me. With my isolation, Defender of the Faith, and Caravels right on the horizon, I will be basically impervious until fleets of frigates are sailing around.

As usual, the presence of a public diplomacy thread had quickly turned PBEM4 into a series of angry disputes between players. Both oledavy and Woden were making fair points in this disagreement. Oledavy was correct that if Singaboy were left to swallow up Norway without intervention, it would be difficult for anyone else to win the game afterwards. For anyone who remembers my victory with Rome in PBEM1, after I conquered my northern neighbor the other players didn't work together to oppose me, and I was easily able to pick them off one at a time to take the win. Germany is already a monster lategame civ with its production advantages, and giving Germany two continents worth of land to play with would practically be conceding the game. On the other hand, Woden was also correct to point out that Brazil was under no obligation to help Japan stop Germany from getting further ahead. Woden was already behind at this point (compare the science/culture/faith rates of the two screenshots above) and he was hoping to make up ground while the leaders duked it out. Staying on the sidelines developing his own Brazilian civ was probably the best move that Woden could make at this point.

The one thing that I would disagree with as a neutral lurker is the fact that Woden accused oledavy of acting in bad faith, claiming to be supporting Norway while actually only working to increase his own lead in science. That was untrue and oledavy's Japan was contributing significantly with gold, resources, and units towards stopping the German advance. I also think Woden was being much too cavalier about his own odds of winning in the wake of a successful German conquest. It wasn't clear to me how his four Brazilian cities were going to catch up if Germany was left with a dozen cities at the end of the war. But in any case, it was certainly a fascinating question, hotly debated by those following the game.

Meanwhile Singaboy's forces, having healed up after their conquest of Midgard, were about to lay siege to the Norwegian capital:

Asgard held a very strong natural defensive position. The land narrowed to a two-tile chokepoint to the south of the city, with rough terrain and a river making approaches to the city from that direction difficult to achieve. Two mountain tiles made encircling the city a tricky proposition and tactical maneuvering difficult. There were Norwegian archers and even Japanese archers to the north of the city, shooting down at the attackers from the heights as they advanced. With control of the seas, this would have been an impossible position for an attacker to capture. And yet somehow Japper was unable to defend the waters surrounding his capital, even with the natural bonuses to naval units that Norway enjoys. A fleet of Germany galleys and quinquiremes dominated the natural harbor east of Asgard, sending the Viking longboats into flight. Singaboy was even able to embark some of his horsemen and circle around to the western edge of the city, something that certainly shouldn't have been possible. With a battering ram rolling up to the capital, it didn't look like Asgard would be able to hold out for very long either. I'll let Singaboy provide the narration for these critical turns:

Singaboy: Now, the military situation at Asgard is almost the best I could have hoped for. The bombardment aimed at a galley and twice the horseman covering the battering ram. I assume Japper thought he could catch them with his swordsman but was stopped short by the river crossing. That was a big mistake. The horseman was lucky and survived too. Time to move in with force.

First I use my horseman that is promoted to kill archers, but it falls short 3 health points. It's a good start though.

I take the archer out with a second horseman. My crossbow has attacked the swordsman too.

Another horseman attacks the swordsman hooping to take it, however it barely survives.

Time to attack the city center, I remove the wounded galley and attack with a healthy galley taking away 50% of the city walls. This is excellent and more than I had hoped for. The reduced city strength certainly helped me here a lot. Moving out the swordsman reduced the strength by 8 points, that's massive. I have yet another healthy horseman ready to attack and the final result of the siege looks like this:

The city walls are gone! The city itself will heal next turn but my assaults will bring it down eventually. Japper's archer and swordsman are trapped thaks to oledavy's archers. So much about helping Japper. Japper can attack only once with his archer inside the city or swap the units and attack. If he swaps out the archer, the archer is dead. If he doesn't the swordsman is dead. Not an easy choice for him here. He has a third archer behind Asgard but it is blocked by oledavy's units. oledavy's units cant do that much against my General strengthened horsemen and I will hopefully be able to hunt them down if they don't retreat. I had to sacrifice my crossbows advances due to the attacks but that's well worth it. The heavily wounded horseman has retreated into Hufeisengipfel. One crossbow will disembark to move east of Asgard. A 5th horseman is on its way to join the attacks. My promoted horseman is hopefully the target of attacks as it can always pillage the wheat for healing. In fact I might pillage the stone too for some added culture. I think overall this was far better than I had expected and it shows that an all out attack might be better than hesitation. My military score is at 640, while both my enemies hover around 160-150. Once Asgard falls, I hope Japper's morale is gone and I can swiftly sweep though the land. Before this turn, I had feared that the attack might completely stall.

* * * * *

Turn 96: I lost a galley and oledavy attacked my promoted horseman. There is no way that I am going to take the city this turn. I need to defeat some units first and get more units into proper position.

First thing is to remove the wounded archer from oledavy. I need to have a better idea of the battlefield beyond Asgard too. Killing his sacrificial archer reveals Japper's third archer. I wonder whether he can shoot at my galleys from his position.

Since I can't attack the city enough to take it, I decide to heal two wounded horseman and bring one in a better position to go after oledavy. The horseman covering the battering ram moves onto the sheep tile and promotes back to full health. It gets the same +5 attack versus ranged units to hunt down oledavys archer. The promoted horseman pillages the wheat back to full health. It has 2 movement points left and does some peeping to the north.

I need to get rid of the swordsman. Surprisingly, my crossbow is not able to defeat it entirely. I get the idea to move in the quadrireme for the kill and get an Inspiration for that too.

I decide to attack Asgard with a galley and my last horseman in range wounding it in the process. I need to get this city faster in order to consolidate my campaign and make progress to eliminate Japper. At the end of the turn, I have 5 horsemen in range to attack the city next turn. However, Japper and oledavy combined might take out 1 - 2 units. That's the price I have to pay for the frontal assault. However, I hope once I have this city in my hands, the resistance will break and units too scattered to harm me in a serious way. I finally have one of the crossbows in range of the General. It will be able to move NW and attack the city at the same time. The city will be at 159/200 health next turn. I assume I will need to use one horseman to defeat oledavys archer (or at least wound it severely). It should leave me with a naval unit, a crossbow and three horsemen to attack the city. City strength will be at 30 at the start of the turn.

These were the most critical turns of the Norwegian campaign, where Singaboy was able to rout his two opponents and clear the field of the units opposing him. It was a foregone conclusion to reduce the remaining city health (and take out a random spearman that Japper had produced between turns), capturing the Norwegian capital for Germany:

The loss of his capital and the decimation of his armed forces had effectively finished the game for Japper. He acknowledged in his spoiler thread that there was little he could do now aside from defend his remaining cities and await the end:

Japper: I expect death in about 20-ish turns, I hereby apologize to my loyal lurkerati (I hope you're still out there) for such a poor showing in my first PBEM. I don't know if I'll be posting again bwfore I'm eliminated unless by some miracle I manage to throw Singaboy back. Let's analyse what went wrong with my gameplan:

-That early Holy Site slowed my start down more significantly than I expected, and worst of all, I wasn't even first to either Pantheon or Religion anyway! Oledavy was first to both due to his cheap Japanese Holy Sites... I should've gone for settlers and focused on churning out more longboats and units instead.
-I underestimated the ease of a naval invasion, even if one with overwhelming force. It's like water wasn't even a barricade at all to Singaboys forces!
-I underrated early Campus strategies on this sort of map. On Duel Pangea (which is the way most of my previous MP games were played, mostly cause the in-game lobby is a ghost town, heh) going for a Campus at all is suicide. Yet in this game, the two major powers (Singaboy and Oledavy) are the ones who emphasised Campuses heavily, even over expansion.

This was solid analysis for the most part. The early Holy Site had indeed backfired badly in this game for Japper, and as someone who had experience mostly on tiny Pangaea maps, he was taken off-guard by Singaboy's ability to attack over water. However, Japper was wrong about the focus on early Campus districts; Singaboy hadn't built any of them at all, concentrating instead on amassing production and military might. The game's early science leaders (first Woden then oledavy) both had militaries of only modest size and weren't the ones launching wars of conquest. I'll also add one more issue that went wrong for Japper: he built too many cities without adding any infrastructure. Norway was training settler after settler, not adapting to the Summer 2017 patch change that increased the scaling cost of settlers. A whole bunch of cities with no districts and no tile improvements doesn't make for a very strong setup, and Japper had been overstretched trying to defend them all with minimal units. He was caught off guard here and simply overrun by a much larger military.

Of course, all those settlers that Japper had spammed out also meant that there were quite a few cities remaining to be taken by Germany. Even after the fall of Midgard and Asgard, there were still five remaining Norwegian cities scattered about that Singaboy still needed to conquer if he wanted to get his prizes out from occupied status. Japper put his civ on autopilot and began building city walls everywhere, doing his best to be a nuisance and drag out the invasion. Singaboy went after the nearby city of Niflheim first:

He faced no resistance in taking out this city. In fact, all meaningful opposition to Germany's advance was essentially over at this point. Civ6 differs in this regard from Civ4, where it's possible to whip and slave out large armies even from a position of defeat. In Civ6, if your army is defeated in detail in the field, it can be very difficult to amass a second force to continue the war. Nor was help about to come from outside agents. Woden had made up his mind from the beginning to stay out of the war. Oledavy's small expeditionary force had been completely slaughtered, and he decided to use the following turns to expand to more of the islands surrounding Japan rather than continuing to oppose the German advance directly. Jester's Spanish civ remained weak and Jester never updated his spoiler thread, so it's difficult to say what he was doing beyond clicking "Next Turn" a whole bunch of times. As for TheArchduke, he was close enough to potentially intervene, but decided to use this time for other advantageous pursuits:

TheArchduke: On Turn 100 we conquered Stockholm and soon Carthage. (Going Oligarchy for this one, I know it is a crap government, but I really need to be not bogged down by it. 3 swordsman is a risky amount of troops for one CS [city state]. Basically the plan is, catch up in tech and culture from a position of strength empire wise. (I am 2nd in empire score thanks to high population and many cities) Tech to Frigates and Mercenaries. Take those frigates and caravels boosted by Great Admirals and make Singaboy's life hell together with Woden and hopefully then still surviving Oledavy. I fear that Japper pulled the same stunt as I did in PBEM #1 way too much expansion, not enough military and caught with his pants down. And how I am 2nd in score is beyond me, I made quite some mistakes in the initial phase.

Singaboy by now is probably seeing me as a bigger threat then he sees Japan, so whilst I do not want war I need to be ready. I aim to have 4 caravels and 4 frigates (one of them a fleet). 14 turns to square rigging, 12 turns to mercenaries if my projections hold. 15 turns till the NAP runs out. In another 4 turns after that I have xbowmen and about 10 turns later Musketman. Judging from Milpower, Singaboy is not kidding around and it will only grow. Being the case, I only have 2 valid, vulnerable by sea targets, Woden or Singaboy and I much rather take down Singaboy before he can get those norwegian cities online.

TheArchduke quietly captured the city states of Stockholm (I Want to Break Free) and Carthage (Killer Queen) while everyone else's attention was focused on Germany. The taking of Stockholm was particularly significant as it eliminated all of the envoys that oledavy and Woden had invested into the city state, damaging their science rate while boosting his own with the addition of a new city that came with a Campus district intact. With a stratospheric income of 78 gold/turn, and complete control over the game's Great Admirals thanks to those Royal Dockyards, TheArchduke was biding his time and preparing for an attack against Singaboy once he finished research into Frigates. This was a slow-building threat but one that Singaboy would need to watch out for.

Back in the midst of Norwegian soil, Singaboy continued advancing and captured the city of Utgard without any serious difficulties. However, Singaboy had made an important tactical decision to split his forces:

Singaboy's logic was that he could only fit so many units into the narrow snakey portions of the Norwegian continent at once, and he hoped to complete the conquest of Japper more quickly by separating his forces. While those arguments certainly made sense, I thought at the time that this was a mistake and still believe that it would have been better to keep his units concentrated. Singaboy only had one Great General to buff his units, and the fact that it was over in the west at the time of the above screenshot meant that it wasn't in the east to help those units. This greatly slowed the progress of his crossbows, especially when traversing rough terrain, and due to the need for a lot of units to pause for healing after each city was taken, he likely wouldn't have been too cramped for movement even if he kept his army together. If anything, splitting up the German army likely made the remaining conquest of Japper take longer, not shorter, especially when this happened:

Jotenheim completed city walls halfway through the attack, and Singaboy's battering ram was off with the other forces in the east. Whoops. This was quickly turning into a slog, with the German units too separated from one another as they chased after multiple objectives at once. Japper's city spamming hadn't been an effective strategy for his own civ, but it was proving very annoying indeed for Singaboy to conquer them all. Turn after turn dragged out with the German offensive slowly grinding onwards. It took a full 20 turns from the capture of Japper's capital for the campaign to reach its conclusion. Eventually Jotenheim in the west and Alfheim in the northeast both fell, and Singaboy was down to the last remaining Norwegian city. However, by this point the Japanese were already setting up shop nearby on an island to the north:

Oledavy's missionary would spread his Mormonism religion into the new city immediately, providing the +10 strength Defender of the Faith bonus to all units within the city's culture. This would provide a new source of headaches for the German forces, with the potential opening of a new front in the north. Note as well the presence of Japanese and German caravels on the scene. The game was beginning to move into the Renassiance era for technology, and all parties would need to arm themselves with large fleets of caravels and frigates to protect their waters against the other players. Here on this archipelago map, each technology that unlocked a new naval unit was extremely important and could swing the relative balance of power. (It was almost like the dreadnought race that preceded World War I, for you historians out there.)

The last stand of Japper's civ was oddly anticlimactic. Singaboy was slowed by the rough icy terrain in the far north, and it was baffling why Japper had bothered to produce an expensive settler for this spot:

Was this iceball really that critical to claim?! I don't think any of us understood this decision. Anyway, it tooks several turns to siege down the city with Singaboy's damaged units, with the final blow landing on Turn 114. The captured Norwegian cities all came out of the occupation penalty at once, and the whole continent was now under German control:

Science and culture both lept up significantly from the removal of the occupation penalty in seven cities at once. Given two dozen turns to develop these conquests in peace, Singaboy almost certainly would become untouchable and run away with the game. However, the other players had no intention of letting Singaboy hold onto these cities undisputed. TheArchduke was putting together the finishing touches on his Great Admiral-boosted fleet, oledavy still had the highest science rate and the game's only remaining religion, while even Woden was making noises about joining together in a campaign against Singaboy. Only Jester's Spain was looking to side with Germany in a potential world conflict, still hoping for a chance to strike back at Japan for the drive-by city razing earlier in the game. PBEM4 was now down to five players, but there was a long way still to go before crowning a winner.