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Realms Beyond Epic One: The Honorable Wonderful French

Catherine of France
Standard map, Fractal, 7 AI Opponents
King difficulty
Second Patch (

For the first official Civ6 Epic, it's become a tradition to return to Sirian's original Civ3 scenario design for the Epics: the Honorable French. The motivation for creating the Epics stemmed out of dissatisfaction that Sirian had with the Civ3 Game of the Month competition at CivFanatics, and specifically the fallout surrounding GOTM7, a Deity game with the Iroquois. Sirian and I both played (and won) that game, posting the only victories that did not involve Ancient era warfare with the powerful Iroquois mounted warrior unique unit. In the discussions that took place following that game, the weaknesses of the GOTM setup had become readily apparent: easy access to spoiler knowledge of the map in the forums, no prohibition on gamey exploitative abuse of the AI, and the necessity of score "milking", sitting just below the Domination threshhold for hundreds of turns following an already-won game to maximize Civ3's poorly designed in-game scoring system. To make a long story short, the top players in the GOTM competition were largely seeing who could sucker-punch the AI the hardest with various rules exploits in game after game, and that did not make for a very compelling setup. Sirian designed the Epics as an alternate competition which would avoid these problems, and the first game used the "Honorable" ruleset in a direct contrast to the GOTM events. Fifteen years and well over a hundred games later, we're still here and revisiting the Honorable French once more for Civ6.

Civ4 and Civ6 both have better gameplay balance than Civ3, and therefore neither game has required the lengthy list of additional rules needed by Civ3. For this particular scenario, I limited the Honorable setup to two main ideas: the player may not declare war, and the player incurs a scoring penalty for capturing or razing enemy cities. This still does allow scope for some "dastardly" play - for example there are no limitations on pillaging enemy districts - but I view that as fair retribution in response to an enemy declaration of war. After all, the old Honorable rules for Civ3/Civ4 allowed for conquering entire enemy civilizations if they declared war first. I'm hoping that the basic ruleset of "don't declare war / don't capture enemy cities" are reasonably easy to remember. Players are allowed to capture cities if desired, albeit at a major penalty to scoring. (I would have stipulated that the player must raze all cities on capture, except that the stupid enemy capitals can't be razed.) We'll see if anyone goes that route and can come out ahead in the scoring; I've tried to set it up so that capturing cities is always a net loss in terms of scoring purposes, but I could very well be wrong!

Of course, a peaceful game alone wouldn't be very interesting. I decided to combine the Honorable variant along with a customized scoring system based around constructing wonders. The core of this variant asks the player to win a cultural victory without having any Theatre districts or the buildings that get constructed within. I also prohibited the player from gaining culture in any of the normal ways: no monuments, no culture-based religious beliefs (including pantheons), no culture from policies, no culture from city states. While this might sound like an impossible setup, the whole scenario synergized in a perfect fashion with France's unique abilities. France gets double tourism from wonders along with +20% construction of Renaissance/Industrial/Modern era wonders, both abilities fitting this setup like a glove. France also has a (lousy) unique building in the form of the chateau that provides culture, and this building I did keep in play as the one allowed source of culture. Even Catherine's rather terrible unique ability of additional espionage information would be useful here, tipping off the player when AI civs started wonder construction and giving them a chance to react. Finally, I added in extra points for winning a cultural victory at an earlier date, to keep players from waiting until Turn 400 to build all the wonders. The scoring places a primacy on winning quickly as well as building as many wonders as possible.

So that led to the basic contours of this scenario: can't declare war or capture cities, can't use most sources of culture, must build wonders for scoring purposes. Now I needed a map, and I decided that this would be a good place to use a Standard sized map, for additional AI opponents and to delay the cultural victory somewhat. More opponents means more tourism needed to provide each foreign tourist, and tourism doesn't start to accumulate with each foreign civ until after meeting them; in general, having larger maps therefore slows down a cultural victory. I decided that I would use the Fractal map script and reroll maps until I found something that looked interesting. Much to my surprise, the very first map turned out to have almost everything that I wanted! The overall world shape was a near-pangaea, with the player given a decent but not great starting location near the northern tundra. There was enough room to spread out and establish a modest core of cities, with Egypt also close enough to provide a check on expansion and keep the player from running a complete farmer's gambit. I also expected that the northern tundra would spawn a decent amount of barbarians to keep players on their toes. Amazingly, the map also placed a pair of Industrial city states very close to the player's location, and double stone at the capital to open up the possibility of Stonehenge. In fact, from what I could tell, the resource requirements were met so that every wonder was at least potentially buildable with this start. The only downside was a Cultural city state not too far away to the east, when I would have preferred to have none of them anywhere near the player's start. That was the one flaw in this setup. However, since we're still forced to operate for now with no Civ6 map editor, this was better than I could have hoped to get via random chance, and I snapped this selection up eagerly.

I thought for a bit about what to do with the starting settler, and ultimately opted to move one tile southwest, settling on the stone resource. While this did sacrifice the ability to use that stone resource and moved the wheat and tobacco resources out of the initial ring, it brought the rice and cow resources into the second ring, where they would be grabbed by cultural expansion in a much more reasonable timeframe. Most importantly, it moved the 2/2 forested hill tile into immediate range, and that was the tile that I wanted to be working from the start of the game. Was this the right move? I still don't know after playing this game. Maybe comparing to those who stayed on the starting tile will shed some light.

As the sponsor for this game, I have full map knowledge and will therefore be relegated to the shadow category. While I don't go out of my way to abuse that knowledge, there are some things that you simply learn from seeing the full map revealed ahead of time, and once you know something, you can't "unknow" it. This spoiler knowledge was on full display at the start of my game, as I knew that one of those Industrial city states was located in the northern tundra, and I beelined my starting warrior there to make contact immediately:

Yeah, I rather doubt anyone else opted to run their initial warrior directly into the icy wastelands at the start of the game. This is why I'm playing a shadow game here, and will be ineligible for the main scoring. Poor Hong Kong. What a dismal location that was - I'm surprised the map generator stuffed a city state into this spot. By coincidence I also happened to run into a barbarian encampment, something that I had not known would be present from my pregame map setup knowledge, and opted to clear it with my warrior, earning a promotion in the process. Did this save me from early harassment at the hands of the barbs? I have no idea. I'm sure it didn't hurt though.

My opening build choices at the capital were slinger -> builder -> settler. I don't like the scout opening anymore, as I've found that you almost always need at least one more military unit to fend off barbarians and the AI's common early rushes. Slingers are extremely useful because of the cheap upgrade into archers (30 gold apiece), along with discounting Archery tech via their "kill a unit" boosting quest. I was playing fast and loose here by only building one slinger; the player needs at least two, and more likely three, to be safe against an early AI attack. I figured that this was only King difficulty, and I would probably be fine. Techwise, I went for Mining and Animal Husbandry, then a very early Astrology tech, as I had a mind to use that stone resource to chase after Stonehenge. Several of the wonders require founding your own religion, and Stonehenge seemed like the best way to get my own at a relatively small investment. I found Buenos Aires, the other Industrial city state, off to my east without issue, and managed to get very doable quests from both of the ones that I met (construct a Campus and land the boost for Astrology). I even found 20 faith in a goody hut and landed an early pantheon, taking Monument to the Gods for +15% Ancient/Classical era wonder construction. So far, so good.

This is the initial starting area for this game. I had also found Egypt by Turn 20, or rather, Cleopatra had found me. I knew that Egypt would be my southern neighbor, and I figured that they would provide some nice competition for the early wonders. What I did not expect was getting caught off-guard by Egypt's "dislikes those with weak militaries" agenda. Our initial meeting went well, and I picked up +3 diplomatic points for sending them a delegation, along with +2 points for a friendly meeting. Then on Turn 20, Cleo was suddenly denouncing me for being weak, and uh oh, there's the -13 diplomatic points for "respects strong militaries". Sheesh, come on girl, I've barely even had time to train units. Cut me a break, will you?

She was not willing to cut me a break:

Uh oh. I was caught completely off guard by this move. My warrior was nowhere in sight, having gone off to find the Dead Sea natural wonder for the Astrology boost. I knew where it was, having seen the map ahead of time, and I had planned to go down there and then return back home. For once, spoiler knowledge of the map was biting me in the rear end. My slinger was off to the east doing some fogbusting. I hadn't expected Cleopatra to go for an immediate rush upon making contact and now I was in a very deep pickle. I couldn't even spend gold to rush a unit in the capital, as I had spent gold purchasing the rice and cow tiles for the capital. (My initial builder improved the stone, rice, and horses, gaining the boosts for Masonry, Irrigation, Horseback Riding, and Craftsmanship in the process.) Ummm... was I about to die here? There was really nothing I could do aside from sit back and pray that the tactical incompetence of the AI would rear its head once again.

Fortunately Craftsmanship civic was just finishing, and that allowed me to change into Agoge for the +50% military production along with Urban Planning for +1 production. I actually figured I should let the settler finish, as that would give me a chance of surviving with another city. My warrior did find the Dead Sea natural wonder on Turn 27, allowing him to start returning home. And Cleopatra... turned around and left?!

Yes, it's true. I killed none of her units, and yet none of them actually attacked Paris. They just... left, for no apparent reason. Cleo didn't even pillage any of my tile improvements, which was a godsend as it was going to be some time before I could get another builder out. What the heck happened here?! I can only guess that Egypt may have been attacked by another AI civ, and that triggered some kind of defensive mechanism that brought these units back home in response. But that's pure speculation. I have no idea what in the world happened here, even as I was profoundly greatful that my game continued. I would be able to get peace with Egypt a few turns later, and could get back to the quiet building game that I had been planning for. Whew. Dodged a bullet there for sure.

I'm very interested to see where the other players choose to place their second city. I picked this spot to the west after a lot of consideration. Rouen had a good number of hills for production, and as a coastal city, it would open up the chance to build some of the nautical wonders. I had also thought about a location to the south in the desert, but that area wouldn't be very good from a production standpoint. That area had almost nothing in the way of hills, with the exception of some desert hills that wouldn't be useful until later. (Desert hills are 0/1 yield at the start of the game, and become 0/2 when mined. They need Apprenticeship tech to become 0/3, and really need Industrialization to become fully useful as 0/4 tiles.) Now if someone can get a spot down there and land an early Petra, they could have a very powerful city indeed. I was a long way away from Mathematics tech right now though, and I viewed Rouen as the most immediately useful location. I had it start on a Holy Site district immediately, in order to get some faith going and in preparation for later wonders. With fresh water I didn't need an immediate granary, and I couldn't build a monument by rule. A district seemed like the best choice, and the Holy Site was the only district that I could build at the moment!

At the capital, I built the slinger you see above and then immediately went for Stonehenge starting on Turn 31. You can't fool around with that wonder, as the AIs tend to build it very early once they have stone available. Stonehenge was one of the cornerstones of my gameplan, as I intended to claim the first religion without making much of an investment into Holy Sites or faith. The wonder was an 12 turn build, with a big assist coming from the two Industrial city states (+4 production) and my pantheon.

Ten turns later, the wonder was nearing completion. I opted to cash in my treasury for a second builder unit, which would head over and improve the tobacco resource just in time. Paris had hit size 5 on this turn causing the amenities penalty to kick in, and I wanted to remove that as soon as possible. The builder would also chop the forest on the grassland tile immediately east of the capital, where I would plant a Campus district as soon as Writing research finished. I needed that Campus district to complete quickly, as it would provide an envoy from Hong Kong and knock out the boost for State Workforce civic. With my anemic culture, I could not afford to ignore that civic boost.

Or so I thought. On the next turn, I found the boost for State Workforce as a reward in a goody hut. Wow! That was a HUGE deal. Now I could skip the need to construct an early district and still keep pushing for Political Philosophy and the first governments as quickly as possible. Even better, State Workforce unlocks the Corvee policy: +15% production towards Ancient and Classical era wonders. That's not something I use very often but it would be highly useful here. This was one of the rare random civic boosts that shifted my strategy. Instead of building the Campus district next in my capital, I would produce a sorely needed builder (with the Ilkum +30% production card in place) instead.

Fortunately, I did finish Stonehenge on Turn 43 and was able to claim the first religion:

I chose Shintoism because the religious icon looked the most like a wonder, and the light blue color matched my French borders. Having seen the strength of the Work Ethic belief in the Adventure Two competition, I decided to take it for myself in this game. Anything that provides production is highly desirable in Civ6, and the game does track fractions to one decimal place, so even the small early game percentage boost of Work Ethic is valuable. In the lategame, when it can add 15-20% production in cities, the belief is just awesome. I also opted for Scripture as a low-investment option for additional religious spread. I knew I wasn't going to have much faith to spend in this game, and as a result passive spread would be my best friend. I just needed enough religion to convert my own cities and hold off foreign missionaries, nothing more than that. I held off on taking one of the religious buildings since I wouldn't even be able to build them for a long time, and I didn't think I'd end up with enough Holy Site districts to make them particularly valuable. (It's a different story for Saladin who can build them at 10% of the normal cost, of course.) Looking back postgame, these choices seemed to work out pretty well.

I also met Saladin at this point, or again, he met me with an exploring unit. I knew that Arabia was located to the west on a small subcontinent divided from the player's start by a long expanse of tundra. I had planned to send a unit over there to make contact which ended up proving unnecessary. There's a strong incentive in this game to make contact with the AI civs as soon as possible, since tourism doesn't start accumulating with other civs until meeting them. I had also just connected my second source of tobacco, which I immediately turned around and sold to Saladin for 10 gold + 5 gold/turn. That was a big deal indeed, since my entire civ was making 5 gold/turn at this point. I had just doubled my income! This was the first of many resource sales throughout this game, my French civ happily serving up pipe smoke to the rest of the world via those tobacco luxuries.

Turn 50 overview:

Still only at two cities, but of course you have to make some sacrifices to get out those early wonders. I had switched into the Corvee policy and was now going for another key wonder in the form of the Pyramids. I wanted this one badly, not only because it's one of the most useful wonders in the game by providing that extra builder charge, but also because the Pyramids themselves produce +2 culture. As the screenshot indicates, my entire civ was producing a little over 3 culture/turn at the moment, and that was not a number that I could do a whole lot to increase. The ban on most sources of culture is going to make this game a real challenge for players, and the Pyramids was going to be hugely important just as a source of culture. This was not a project that I could afford to delay. (Note that I still haven't finished the Holy Site district in Rouen or made any attempt at building the Campus at the capital beyond throwing it down on the map to lock in the cost. That civic boost to speed along State Workforce had been a gigantic help.)

I did find cultural city state Mohenjo-Daro in time to get the boost for Political Philosophy. I was able to avoid their initial quest (recruit a Great Merchant) and hoped that it would stay that way. If only I could have moved that city state off to the one of the islands! Ah well. I had a scout (popped from another hut) off exploring the southern part of the map, and it made contact with Norway and the Kongo. While Norway was largely a nonfactor in this game, the Kongo proved to be extremely strong, especially from a Great Person perspective. Here in the second patch, the AI also seemed to be expanding and teching significantly faster than I remembered in the past, especially compared to the release version of the game. Those days where the AI would sit around with a single city, never expanding, never doing much of anything - they appear to be gone, and good riddance.

The Pyramids completed on schedule on Turn 61 and I had my second wonder of the game. Had I been in competition with anyone else? I'm not sure; fortunately it didn't matter. The free builder and (especially) the additional culture were much appreciated. Imagine that, building the Pyramids as a monument replacement! Well, I suppose it was a monument, albeit a rather large one. The culture sped me along to Political Philosophy, and when I got there, I happily took Autocracy for my government. Additional yields in the capital and +10% wonder construction everywhere? Yes please! For the moment I took Conscription (-1 gold maintenance on units) and Discipline (barb combat bonus), along with Corvee for more wonder-building power and Colonization for the +50% settler construction.

I initiated an expansion phase following the construction of the Pyramids, building settlers in both Paris and Rouen. The one in Paris finished first and established Lyon off to the east in another production-heavy (and food-light) area of the map. Lyon's borders also brought another tobacco resource into French borders, which was immediately sold to Mvemba for 6 gold/turn. Rouen's settler was targeted for that resource-rich little peninsula where my warrior was fortified for fog-busting purposes. I would establish a city east of the horses once the settler managed to walk down there. Meanwhile Paris was already pursuing another wonder in the form of the Hanging Gardens, a wonder that proved to be quite cheap with all of the various production bonuses I had managed to stack up thus far. I found the balance between building wonders and doing the normal empire development to be a very interesting tradeoff in this game. I always felt pulled back and forth between building the things that I knew I needed to become stronger (getting out more settlers, building Commercial/Industrial districts, etc.) versus tying up cities for long periods of time on wonder builds. Without patting myself on the back too much, I think this made for a solid scenario design.

Of course, it wasn't all fun and games:

My poor slinger. I had this guy out exploring a path over to Arabia, only to run into Yerevan and its impassable borders. I forgot that this city state was halfway between our civs - whoops. The slinger gave a good account of himself but fell to this pair of barbarian brutes. I had a similar story in the southern part of the map, as my scout was exploring the coast down near Norway, only to end its turn next to TWO barbarian quadriremes, which killed it instantly. Their bombardments both did 51 damage, argh. That would end up delaying contact with the last civ on this continent (China) for some time.

I did manage to finish the Hanging Gardens without incident on Turn 75. The faster growth was a definite help with the generally low-food cities that I had throughout this game. Paris immediately started the Oracle, which was another wonder that I thought would actually be useful beyond the scoring goals. Extra Great Person points from districts couldn't hurt... plus the Oracle itself was worth 1 culture/turn. Every little bit helped! I managed to finish the Oracle as well on Turn 86, but that was when I received the first bad news on foreign wonders:

The Great Library was built by the Kongo. I had seen this wonder under construction with my scout (back while the unit was still alive) and opted not to pursue it, knowing that I had no chance to build the wonder first. The problem here was culture; the Great Library requires the player to research Recorded History civic, and I didn't even have it finished yet. There wasn't much chance that I could build the wonder; just not enough culture to get through the civics tree quickly enough. I did have fairly decent research in beakers, enough to have finished Apprenticeship tech, and I was now backtracking to Celestial Navigation for Harbor districts and a potential Great Lighthouse build. This was one wonder project that fell through the cracks, and it would be far from the last one.

More foreign wonders soon followed. Cleopatra finished Petra on Turn 91, and even though I had never started the wonder anywhere, that was a tough one to lose. My dreams of turning that southern desert region into a lush Petra oasis were dashed for good. Maybe I could have built it at the capital - maybe - but I had already churned out four wonders there, and I needed to spend some time on basic infrastructure. I had been using the recent turns to produce a Commercial and Industrial district for Paris, and I don't think that was a waste. Still, this is an area where other players could have gotten substantially ahead of my game, if they somehow managed to build Petra in that massive desert region. Egypt simply went for it too soon in my game.

By the way, the "foreign wonder constructed" notification makes a little *thump* sound when it appears, and it would have me jumping througout the whole game. Did I just lose out on a crucial wonder and throw away hundreds of production? Nerve-wracking stuff.

Here's the Turn 100 overview, and sure enough, I've just lost out on my third wonder of the game. I had been hoping to build the Mahabodi Temple in Rouen and use the apostles to enhance my religion. Apparently not. Should I have tried to build a Holy Site district in the capital and gone for this wonder there? I have no idea. I actually thought this one was pretty safe since I didn't see any of the AIs building it, only to have someone in the fog snipe the wonder. At least I didn't waste any production on the thing; I had only just finished Theology tech a few turns earlier. Blame the slow civics research for lack of culture again.

I have expanded again at the La Rochelle site, taking my first stab at the desert region to the south. Without Petra that was never going to be a great city, but I'd see what I could make of the area. At least the oasis provided fresh water for housing. Note that Lyon is building an Encampment district - yes, an Encampment. The district unlocks two wonders (Terracotta Army and Alhambra) that I wanted to build, and with the change to factories in the latest patch, the district itself isn't even all that bad. I also had Rouen working on a Harbor district for some kind of nautical wonder, hopefully the Colossus or Great Lighthouse. And finally, I was building a Campus in Bourdeaux to make use of that crazy mountainous region to the east. When it finished, I slotted in the Campus adjacency bonus policy (Natural Philosophy), and produced this result:

10 beakers from the distract adjacency bonus alone. From 22 beakers/turn to 32 beakers/turn - almost a 50% increase over the previous value. Not bad, not bad at all.

More peaceful turns continued to pass. I spotted Chichen Itza under construction in the Kongo with an exploring warrior, and with the required civic (Guilds) not even researchable yet, I knew immediately that this was another wonder I would miss out on. I was poorly situated to make a play for the rainforest-requirement wonder anyway, although the culture it provides would have been hugely helpful. Mvemba would end up finishing it on Turn 132; maybe I could have had a shot with a more determined beeline for the civic? Hard to say. I did finally meet China a few turns later, and that allowed me to get some tourism going with Qin as well. Now I only needed to find the last two civs, which I knew were both located on a small continent to the southwest of the main one across the ocean. That was going to require more time to develop the required seafaring technology.

This was almost a disaster:

One of those unmet civs finished the Colossus on Turn 120, a mere four turns before my Great Lighthouse build completed in Rouen (which it did on schedule shortly thereafter). Rouen had been tied up on this wonder build for a long time, and losing out on all that production would have been a major setback. My decision to build the Great Lighthouse had essentially been dumb luck, since I had the tech required for the Lighthouse while I lacked the tech for the Colossus. Of course, maybe I had actually been unlucky here, and it would have been better to build the Colossus first, then pick up the Great Lighthouse later... except that the Lighthouse is cheaper to build than the Colossus, so if I had gone Colossus-first I never would have been able to get the wonder in time. Anyway, it's really hard to know what order in which to construct the wonders when you don't have contact with some of the other civs. A lot of it comes down to guessing in the dark and hoping to get lucky. I also can't believe that Civ6 gives the player absolutely nothing if a wonder build fails; no production swapping as in Civ1-Civ3, no failgold as in Civ4/Civ5, nothing. I could have been left holding an empty purse here, so in a weird way it was probably good luck that the mystery civ went for Colossus and allowed me to get my own naval wonder. (I am very curious to see if the same AIs pursue the same wonders in other games!)

A few turns later, I used my accumulated faith to grab a key Great Person:

Thank you Oracle for making patronage of Great People 25% cheaper to purchase with faith! I sniped Issac Newton away from Mvemba and claimed him as my first Great Scientist. This was a useful pickup for two reasons. First, the inherent benefit was quite nice, as I would use the Great Person to insta-build a library and university on that Campus district in the middle of the mountain chain. The bonus +2 beakers in all universities was also very nice to have, although with a smaller empire in this game the effect was nowhere near as helpful as it would have been in Adventure Two. Second, I also needed to claim a Great Scientist to get the boost for Education, one of the more useful (and expensive) techs in the Medieval era. This was a helpful way to kill two birds with one stone and put some of that faith to good use. My religion had spread naturally to all of my cities and I had little interest in trying to convert anyone else.

While we're on this screen, I need to mention that Mvemba was grabbing Great People left and right. His unique ability gives him double Great Person points for Merchants and the Writer/Artist/Musician categories, and he was just flying through the list. He also had a larger empire than I did, and remained ahead of me in score. I swear, the AI has gotten so much better in the last two patches, it's hard to compare it to the release version. Remember in my Adventure One game how Mvemba never built a second city and quickly fell dozens of techs behind? My how things have changed. The combat AI is still abysmal, but we're starting to get to the point where the AI can expand decently and manage the in-game economy to at least some extent. It's an encouraging thought for the ongoing development of Civ6.

I was disappointed that the first Great Engineer was Bi Sheng, who triggers the boost for Printing tech and allows a city to build one district above the normal population limit. I was hoping for one of the Great Engineers with wonder charges, and the second Engineer on the list did indeed fall into that category. Since everyone else should have the same Great Engineer list, that means no early Petra or Chichen Itza rush for anyone else. That's a good thing in a way, as it makes the competition a bit more interesting. I claimed this first Great Engineer and got to work on the second, more desirable one.

This was the Cultural Victory screen on Turn 126, at the round date of 250 AD. I was sitting at 8/47 foreign tourists, right around 25% of the amount needed to win. This was better than I was expecting to do this early in the game, since wonder tourism is era-based and doesn't really kick in until reaching the later portions of the game. (Wonders produce 2 tourism/turn base and then add 1 tourism/turn for each era that passes beyond their construction, for a maximum of 9 tourism/turn for Ancient era wonders when the player is in the Information age. And of course this wonder tourism bonus is doubled for France.) This suggested that if I could keep building wonders and reach Computers tech (which doubles all sources of tourism) to get into the Atomic age, that would hopefully be enough to win in a reasonable time frame. One thing that I did do was keep Open Borders running with all other civs at all points in time. It's an easy +25% bonus to the tourism going to that civ and there's no reason not to make use of the benefit. The AI is almost always willing to sign Open Borders, sometimes asking for a token fee in return. I think Saladin wanted 1 gold/turn at one point - sure, why not. I also planned to run trade routes to the other civs for the additional +25% tourism bonus, although I needed more trade routes to make that a viable choice. For now, I used my limited slots on domestic routes to aid in wonder building.

At home, I was confident that Lyon would land the Terracotta Army wonder. The AI doesn't seem to prioritize that one very much, partly because the AI rarely seems to build Encampment districts at all. The capital had meanwhile started on an Entertainment district, which you've probably guessed was a necessary prebuild for the Colosseum. The AI also usually skips that one too, although I didn't want to take any chances. Best to get that one done now and free up Paris for more expensive wonders later. (I was already in the process of researching Printing for the Forbidden City wonder.) Finally, Rouen had just begun the Hagia Sophia, and that was a wonder that worried me greatly. The AI loves everything related to religion in this game, and I knew that there would be competition for Hagia Sophia. Could Rouen get the wonder done in time? I had no idea, but I also figured that I had to try. I had no other Holy Sites in my empire, and my other high production cities were all constructing their own wonders. It was going to have to be Rouen or nowhere. I would be sweating this out bigtime over the following turns.

Finally, note the sad state of my cultural output. 56 beakers/turn but only 16 culture/turn? Ugh. Civics research was dragging in the worst way. I was counting on wonders to help me out here as well, with the Colosseum providing 2 culture and the Forbidden City outputting 5 culture. Together they would increase my current civics research by about 50 percent! In the meantime though, this was slow going indeed. I had to make sure to land the civic boosts if at all possible, and flat out skip the unnecessary parts of the civics tree. I'll discuss this more later, but I would end up skipping huge portions of the civics tree, targeting only the things that I absolutely needed to have. This was not a game where the player could go on auto-pilot and pick the usual options - not enough culture to make that work.

In a lighter moment, check out what my exploring warrior found over in the extreme east: barbarian island! I claimed an unexplored goody hut here and picked up gold as a reward. I did not make any attempt to clear the barbarian camp though, and headed back out to sea on the next turn as fast as possible. Unfriendly natives indeed!

I did finish the Colosseum and Terracotta Army as planned. Paris now began constructing the Forbidden City at its best rate, requiring about 15 turns in total. Meanwhile, I also had the first foreign religious units begin to show up:

Those are Taoist missionaries from China. They spent most of their charges on Nantes and eventually converted it to their religion. I decided that I would use my next faith purpose on an apostle, and launch an Inquisition with the unit to open up inquisitors. That would provide me with a cheap way to defend against enemy religious units, plus get a chance to see inquisitors in action, as I had never built one before this game. Some of the players in the Adventure Two game had used inquisitors to great effect there. Also note the settler out of Bourdeaux, intended to claim the empty territory to the northeast up by that salt resource. I would also cash-rush a settler out of La Rochelle three turns later for a cool 800 gold, with that one intended to go to a site in the northwest tundra. I was trying to keep expansion going, as one of the few ways to get additional culture in this game was through growing more citizens. And the best way to do that was to have more total cities on the map. With the Colosseum in hand and suzerainship of Buenos Aires, amenities were no trouble. I hoped to get up to eight cities and then see if there was anything useful left to settle.

I dutifully kept renewing my Open Borders and resource sales with the AI civs whenever they completed. I was selling my three excess tobacco luxuries for bigtime cash; for example, Saladin was willing to pay me 14 gold/turn! He must have been having some kind of amenities crunch and was desperate for more happiness. Don't mind us French tobacco merchants, dispensing the pungent weed to the other empires on this particular world. We were certainly smoking enough ourselves, refusing to employ any of the normal sources of culture while pursuing a Cultural victory.

Here was another wonder that I missed out on, although fortunately not one that I had invested production into. Potala Palace was planned for Lyon, and I was going to construct it on the hill tile southeast of the sheep next to that huge mountain range. Instead, one of the AI empires finished it a single turn before I completed Astronomy tech. This was definitely a wonder that I could have built, and I expect that at least some of the players will manage to land it in this competition. At the same time, it's clear from the screenshot that my first two cities were already constructing wonders, and Lyon itself had recently finished Terracotta Army. There are limits to what you can do, and it's juggling multiple competing projects that provides the fun in this scenario. Before the game started, I wondered if the AI would end up being totally feeble, allowing the player to construct every wonder if they planned ahead well enough. Clearly that was not the case. I was quite happy at how well the AI was doing in my game, and I would be shocked if anyone managed to run the full slate of wonders. As I said before, the AI has improved immensely in the first two patches.

I also wanted to highlight my civics research into Divine Right. While that was partially for the wonder there in the form of Mont Saint Michel, the larger reason I went after that civic was due to the government present in the form of Monarchy. I would swap into that new government on Turn 145, the first time that I've ever used it in Civ6. This is a fairly weak government choice, since it's so heavy on the Military policy slots and has weak inherent bonuses in the form of +20% influence points (for envoys) and additional housing in cities that construct medieval walls. (Hint: no one builds medieval walls!) However, for this game it would provide me with more total policy card slots than Autocracy, and it did not require any additional civics research. Theocracy would require the dead-end Reformed Church civic. Merchant Republic was even worse, located up at the top of the tree and requiring Military Training, Mercenaries, and Exploration civics. I would never research any of these options. With culture so limited for this game, I had to prioritize the civics that I actually needed to keep pushing forward towards additional wonders. Monarchy was "good enough" for what I needed here.

For the curious, the main policies that I was running were Conscription (-1 gold/unit), Gothic Architecture (+15% production for Medieval/Renaissance wonders), and Natural Philosophy (double Campus adjacency bonuses). I had additional military policies that I didn't really need where I ended up slotting in various unit production bonuses. Meritocracy (+1 culture/district) called out to me but of course was banned by variant rule.

This was about the time that I started running my first foreign trade route, which I sent to the Kongo. Foreign trade routes provide a default +25% tourism with the destination civ, and I targeted the Kongo because their domestic tourism was the highest. When you secure a foreign tourist from another civilization, you subtract away one of their domestic tourists, which provides an incentive to target the rival empires with the highest culture. I also recruited the Great Merchant who constructs a free market and bank in a single city, which I used in (low-production) La Rochelle. Unfortunately this completed the "Obtain a Great Merchant" quest with Cultural city state Mohenjo Daro, and as a result I unavoidably picked up +2 culture in the capital. Argh! At least it came late enough in the game that 2 culture didn't have a huge effect. There was nothing I could do about this: I wasn't going to pass on recruiting a Great Merchant for the rest of the game.

I met America on Turn 151 in a very odd location, finding a Protestant missionary over near Arabian territory. I have no idea what the unit was doing over there. My own unit was exploring the map, something which I'd been trying to do over the past few dozen turns. With no map trading in Civ6, you need to send units out to push back the fog. There are usually more city states out there to meet, and a surprising number of goody huts will survive into the late portions of the game. The AI seems to make no attempt to claim them. For this game, I had the additional goal of meeting the other civs to allow tourism to start accumulating with them as soon as possible.

Oh, and as the picture above indicates, I did complete Hagia Sophia in Rouen, followed by the Forbidden City in Paris. Hagia Sophia had been an absolute steal - I thought the AI would claim that one before I could finish. Nope! Plucky Rouen, my only city with a Holy Site district, managed to finish it first. Well done.

Then out of nowhere, I was sneak-attacked by Arabia and the Kongo. What the heck?! Looks like another one of the AI's crazy joint war declarations out of nowhere. They seem to attack anyone they dislike at random throughout the game. I've heard some people on the Civ6 forums claiming that the AI is too passive in later eras, but that's not what I've seen in my games. I've found them to declare war all the time regardless of the era penalty, with the result that all the AIs detest one another by the lategame. I had been maintaining a Friendship with Egypt for exactly this reason, to ensure that the closest AI civ would not attack me. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the world hated Cleopatra, and that may have contributed to this attack. (Mvemba also hated me because I had never spread my religion to him - as if I could have made any headway against the dozens of Chinese missionaries constantly flooding his land.) Making matters worse, a random Kongolese scout happened to be passing through my territory and managed to snipe my settler that was about to establish a new city northwest of Rouen. Are you kidding me?! What were the odds of that? What a needless pain in the rear.

Anyway, I cashed in my accumulated faith for an apostle, which I used to launch an Inquisition. This would allow my low-faith religion to build inquisitors for defense against the incoming Chinese (Taoist) and later Arabian (Islamic) missionaries. I also managed to accumulate enough Great Engineer points to claim the second one available on Turn 156. Filippo Brunelleschi had a pair of 315 production wonder charges for use, and I decided to spend him immediately on the wonder that I felt was most at risk:

This Great Engineer was enough to complete Mont Saint Michel at my only suitable city, La Rochelle. Interestingly, the wonder does not require a Holy Site district, only the presence of floodplains or marsh terrain. I wish that I had managed to get this Great Engineer earlier, in time to rush Petra or Chichen Itza at a weak desert/rainforest city. It was not to be though, as both wonders fell dozens of turns before any such Great Engineer was available. (Will this be the same in other people's games? We'll all have the same initial Great Engineer, but does the list change in future eras? I don't know.) I judged Mont Saint Michel to be the wonder most in danger of being taken, and with La Rochelle being a fairly weak city to begin with, decided not to take any risks. Score another two scenario points.

Note that I have managed to recapture that settler from Mvemba, and I will found another city in the northern tundra at the top of the screen shortly. What a needless delay of a half dozen turns. Over in the east, I had founded the city of Rennes by the salt resource northwest of city state Mohenjo-Daro. This recent city was just getting started on its infrastructure, and I hadn't thought about it too much. However, it turned out that Mohenjo-Daro was allied with the Kongo, and they sent a pair of swords up there. Yeah yeah yeah, stupid Civ6 combat AI can't get out of its own way, no need to worry. Well, it turns out that a brand new city doesn't have much in the way of defensive power, as I found out when the first sword attacked and did 70 damage. Ummm... whoops. Then the second one attacked and razed the city:

Noooo, my beautiful city! I knew that Cultural city state was bad karma! Only element of this scenario that I didn't like during the game setup, and here it was biting me in the rear. Well, I suppose that I deserved this for having no defenses at all in one of the most vulnerable parts of my territory. Even one archer (upgraded to a crossbow) could have pushed this back easily. Lesson learned. I was able to get peace with both Saladin and Mvemba shortly thereafter, with Saladin kicking in 16 gold/turn (!) in exchange for some tobacco as part of the peace deal. I would immediately re-establish Open Borders with both of them, and get a trade route running to the Kongo again for tourism purposes. Interestingly, tourism does still continue to take place while at war with another civilization, but of course there are no Open Borders / trade route bonuses to take advantage of, and those are quite significant even at the base rate of +25% for each.

Continued on the next page in Part Two...