Realms Beyond Epic One: The Honorable Wonderful French

I was researching towards Scientific Theory and Humanism at the time that the Kongo's city state ally had so ruthlessly burned down my city, neither one of which had the boost. For Humanism, there was simply no way that I was going to recruit a Great Artist. With Theatre districts outlawed by variant rule, I had no way to produce Great Artist points, and no way to get an Artist short of spending 5000 gold via Patronage. And yet Humanism was the civic that was going to unlock chateaus so that I could finally get some additional culture going, which meant that it had an enormous priority for me. Similarly, Scientific Theory tech would unlock Oxford University, which would be highly useful to increase research in addition to the scenario points for wonder building. This was a case where it was better to ignore the boosts and push immediately for what would make my civ stronger, rather than worrying about "saving" beakers/culture. Judging when to make those decisions is one of the more interesting strategic aspects of this game.

When Humanism did finish a half dozen turns later, it was time to make use of those chateaus:

Let's be clear here: chateaus are variant material. They are not something that a player would find themselves building under most normal circumstances. Pre-patch, they produced 1 culture/turn and an additional 2 culture/turn when built next to a wonder. They have since been buffed to produce a base 2 culture/turn, which is still not much to write home about. The chateaus are crippled by the fact that they must be placed next to a river (where there's almost always something more desirable to use: lumbermills, Commercial districts, etc.) and come so late in the civics tree at Humanism. By the time that the player gets there, half the game is over already and 2 culture is nothing much. If France could build these from the start of the game, like Sumeria can with their ziggurats, it might be a different story. They are simply a weak choice for a tile improvement, and I had to construct this whole elaborate variant system to make them worth building.

That said, in the context of this game... the chateaus were actually very helpful! Culture was the one area where I was the weakest, and the chateaus helped to plug that hole. Even this one dinky little chateau in the tundra city of Amboise took me from 38 culture to 40 culture, and that was an increase of 5 percent. I would go on to build a series of chateaus in the following turns, held back by the river adjacency requirement and one other unpleasant fact: my entire core was already full of districts and wonders! I was running out of room to build much of anything. It was my One City Challenge game all over again, on a grander scale. Not the worst problem to have though.

Here's an overview picture from the same turn. Paris has just started the expensive Oxford University wonder, while Rouen is midway through Venetian Arsenal and Lyon was halfway done with Alhambra. This was the last group of wonders immediately available, and then I would have to research additional technology/civics to open up more options. (This was another reason why I rushed Mont Saint Michel: all my strong production cities tied up on other competing wonders.) The Venetian Arsenal in particular had required some thought ahead of time, requiring me to put Rouen's Industrial district in an odd location on the coast to be able to build the wonder at all. I hope that the other players don't run afoul of any of the terrain requirements for wonders, as it's quite easy to miss wonders that way. (I also had to do some weird tile swapping between cities to pull it off; the game will say that a wonder is ineligible to build, even when it's perfectly possible to build it, if the city in question doesn't have control of the tiles needed for the wonder. They must be "swapped" from the other city, and the interface does an abysmal job of making this clear.)

Elsewhere Bourdeaux was almost done with the replacement settler for my razed city, and I have units out exploring the map waiting for Cartography research to complete. That's the tech that unlocks overseas travel (for both units and ships), and I was eager to go meet the final missing civ for tourism purposes. I knew that Rome was located to the southwest of Egyptian and Scandinavian territory, and I had a scout waiting there in the water for the ability to cross ocean tiles. A few turns later, I finished Cartography and immediately met Trajan:

Yep, that's how close the Romans were to the main continent. They were unreachable until discovering oceanfaring technology though. I immediately signed them up to Open Borders to get the tourism caravan rolling. With tourists now arriving from all seven other civilizations, I could start making faster progress on the victory front.

At home, I invested faith into my first inquisitor purchases, and had the chance to see this religious mechanic for the first time:

Inquisitors are interesting units. Their spread charges REMOVE competing religions from your cities, much like an apostle with the Proselytizer promotion. Inquisitors are very efficient at this too, with a single charge wiping out all traces of other faiths from a single city. They can attack other religious units just like apostles, but they are incredibly weak outside of your own territory. They only have 75 base strength (as compared to 100 for missionaries and 110 for apostles), which means that rival apostles can essentially one-shot them outside your own territory. However, within the friendly confines of your own borders they get a gigantic +35 strength bonus, which allows them to fight apostles on an even footing. In the picture above, one of my inquisitors is about to kill a damaged Arabian (Islamic) apostle, which had been duking it out with a Chinese (Taoist) rival apostle. Killing religious units causes all the surrounding cities to lose faith in the defeated religion and gain a surge of belief in the victorious religion. By healing my inquisitors and picking off enemy apostles, I was able to maintain my Shinto faith despite the waves of incoming enemy religious units. Just three inquisitors and a single Holy Site district were enough for me to protect my religion with relative ease. The downside is that it was highly tedious to manage this, as I was forced to kill endless numbers of Islamic and Taoist religious units. I wish there was some way to get the AI to stop such a fruitless, time-wasting pursuit.

Note as well that Alhambra and Venetian Arsenal are both about to complete in this picture above, and I would land both of them without issue over the next couple of turns. With Rouen finished its last wonder, I was now free to plant chateaus on all of its available river tiles, which I would carry out with builders over the following turns. Hey why not, right? Rouen had done its job from a production standpoint, and could now contribute best by converting its riverside mines into riverside chateaus. I also enhanced my religion at this point and selected the Stewardship belief from among the very few choices that still remained: +1 science/gold from Campuses/Commercial districts. I don't think this made much of a difference, but I had the excess faith, I might as well do something with it.

I made one other very interesting discovery during these turns. I noticed that my city of Nantes down in the southern jungle seemed to be producing less culture and popping its borders much more slowly than my other cities. When I hovered over the cultural output of Bourdeaux to figure out what was happening, I spotted this:

What's this, 2 culture/turn from the Colosseum - say what?! Yeah, so get this: the Colosseum provides not only additional amenities to all cities within six tiles, it also provides +2 CULTURE to all cities within six tiles! I had never seen this documented anywhere, and in a normal game the effect is so small as to be unnoticeable. Not in this game though. I had been getting 2 culture/turn in all five of my core cities from the Colosseum, for a net effect of 10 culture/turn. Wow! Even now, dozens of turns later with chateaus going up along the rivers of France, that was still producing about a quarter of my civ's total cultural output. Eighty turns earlier when I built the wonder it had been a much, much higher percentage of the overall total. This means that the Colosseum was almost certainly the single most important wonder for this particular variant setup. Anyone who misses out on it is going to have PAINFULLY slow cultural generation. I'm wincing right now just thinking about it. Fortunately the Colosseum is one of the easiest wonders to build, as the AI seems to ignore Entertainment districts for the most part. It's going to make for some fun comparisons come report day with any poor players who happened to miss it.

Here's another checkup on the cultural victory standings as Oxford University finished in the capital. I was approaching the halfway mark in terms of percentages, although I knew that I still had a long way to go in terms of the raw number of foreign tourists required. The Kongo was the leader here by a wide margin, and at about 50 culture/turn was adding another domestic tourist roughly every other turn. At my current rate of tourism, I was essentially keeping pace without closing the gap. I pasted together these two screenshots to demonstrate the difference that the tourism modifiers can make with the individual civs. I had a trade route and Open Borders with the Kongo, for a total modifier of +38% after the different governments penalty was applied. (You can essentially ignore religious tourism, as that only affects relics and Holy Cities, not wonder tourism.) Total tourism/turn with the Kongo was therefore 162/turn. However, Norway had denounced me and would not sign Open Borders; they hated me because I had a "weak navy" and that's part of Harald's AI agenda. Without Open Borders and with no trade route, the total modifier was -21% for a total tourism of 96/turn. A rather large difference, eh? Keeping on top of these minutiae adds up to a major difference in a cultural victory finishing date.

I managed to enter the Modern Age two turns later on Turn 183, in a way that I didn't expect and didn't fully understand until going back and compiling this report. A little earlier, I had recruited the Great Person James Young, who revealed oil on the map (meh) and discounted two techs from the Industrial/Modern eras. One of them randomly turned out to be for the Flight technology, which I was not researching at the time and had no plans to pursue immediately. I also had a number of units out exploring the map, and wouldn't you know it, one of them stumbled across a tribal village that provided another boost to Flight tech knocking out the other half and finishing it:

I didn't think too much of it at the time, and only took this screenshot to document for myself when I entered the Modern Age. However, I had overlooked one of the lesser-known aspects of Flight tech, which causes all tile improvements that produce culture to produce tourism as well. In practice, this usually does nothing as most tile improvements do not produce culture. However, in this game it meant that all of my chateaus would also be providing tourism as well as culture! And I didn't even realize this at the time, even as I went ahead and kept building them purely for their cultural output. I remember that I had made of note of this while designing the scenario as another way that France could achieve a cultural victory without being able to build Theatre districts, then promptly forgot about it while playing weeks later. Haha, talk about it being better to be lucky than good sometimes. In any case, it made a real difference. Entering the Modern era was worth another 1 tourism/turn from every wonder, plus the tourism bonus that Flight provided to the chateaus. Note that my base tourism went from 122/turn to 166/turn just like that. Still more work needed, but getting closer now.

What's the single biggest way to increase your tourism output for a cultural victory? The answer is invariably researching Computers technology, which doubles all sources of tourism after all other modifiers are applied. Computers tech is also very easy to beeline (probably too much so) and would advance my civ another era into the Atomic age, increasing wonder-based tourism even more. I was on a determined tech beeline there at the moment, which is why my cities were busy working on the naval-themed boosts on the top part of the tree. I was building shipyards in my coastal cities and Rouen was even going for the "build three privateers" quest for Electronics. Venetian Arsenal was actually helpful here, and with Alhambra and Monarchy government, I had four military policy slots where I could easily drop in the +100% naval production policy. I caught another break when the next Great Engineer came up as Ada Lovelace, who triggers the boost for Computers tech. Perfect! The normal boost for Computers is to have one of the governments with eight policy slots, and I was never going to get anywhere close to them with my anemic cultural output. Computers tech, here we come... due in another 20-25 turns.

This is a zoomed in view of Rouen after its transformation into a vacation resort destination. There are seven chateaus visible in this picture, five at Rouen and another pair up at Amboise. All of them were contributing tourism, even though I didn't realize it at the time while playing. The mines have been stripped away from Rouen and its production has been decimated, but as I said before, that was fine. I needed culture and tourism now, and that's what this city was providing. It was unfortunate that I didn't have more riverside tiles available; there were too many districts and wonders planted on top of them. I could not build chateaus at the capital or Lyon, as I needed them for more wonder building. I was actually scanning the map at this point, looking for any unsettled land where I could throw down more cities and build more chateaus. To their credit, the AI civs had done an excellent job of settling the map, and I couldn't find any locations with an unclaimed river. They have come a long way from that initial release version. Still, I would keep an eye out as my recon units continued exploring.

As part of that effort, I eventually found the Colossus culprit:

America built it in their capital city. Although this was a rough overall starting location for Teddy, the city of Washington was well suited for early game wonder construction. Trying to outbuild a coastal capital to this wonder was unlikely to happen. I'm quite pleased to have managed to Great Lighthouse given the way the terrain shook out here. I think the "must have a Harbor district with a completed lighthouse" requirement helped me. (The Colossus doesn't require any buildings, only the Harbor district itself.) What would the players have thought if I had made them play the game out of this starting position?

Earlier, I thought that I had seen a message that the Kongo was starting Big Ben somewhere in that flurry of message spam that popped up every turn. I would watch all those messages closely every turn, always trying to see if I could glean something useful from the massive amount of useless trash. Civ6 would benefit enormously from a way to sort that information into categories; for example, I'd like to know when other civs start wonders, found new cities, or recruit Great People. I don't care about when they train a new unit, clear a barbarian camp, finish a monument, or any of the other dozens of nonsense spam that clogs up the intelligence report. There is genuinely useful information in there, but it's getting buried under a mountain of useless crap right now. I even went into the diplo screen with the Kongo and tried to find that wonder announcement and failed to spot it. Had I been imagining things? Apparently not, as my exploring warrior that I had diverted to the Kongo eventually stumbled across this:

Uh oh. That's a partially completed Big Ben - I had been right after all. As soon as I saw the pop up message, I had immediately diverted from Computers research towards Economics, the tech that unlocks the Big Ben wonder. Unfortunately, it had more required prerequisite techs than I expected. It wasn't until Turn 191 that I reached Economics and could get started on Big Ben myself in the capital:

Despite my best efforts, 15 turns was the best that I could do on the wonder completion date. That was with me swapping every available shared tile over to the capital - just look at this crazy setup around the city of Paris. There are so many districts and wonders placed around the city that only a narrow band of tiles to the northeast of the city proper are still workable, along with scattered mines here and there around the countryside. I couldn't even build Ruhr Valley here, as the wonder requirements were not met. (The only riverside tile next to the Industrial district was already blocked by the city's Commercial district.) What a pain! On the positive side of the leger, I was getting 12 production from my Industrial city state allies and then another 12 production from the Work Ethic belief and having positive happiness. And of course as France I had the innate +20% production bonus for Industrial era wonders, and I was also running the Skyscrapers policy for +15% production towards Industrial era and later wonders. This was the best that I could do, and I had to hope that it would be enough.

The next dozen or so turns were among the most tense in the game for me. This was the last great wonder race, and I was determined to win it. Every turn I would zoom in the map and examine that in-progress wonder at Mbwila, trying to figure out how far along the city was in the construction of Big Ben. I studied and studied that wireframe model of Big Ben like you wouldn't believe. Did the graphic change from the previous turn? Oooh, they finished part of the roof on the east side of the building, that wasn't good. How much more did they still have left? It became clear almost immediately that Paris was building the wonder faster than Mbwila, but the Kongolese city had had a major head start, almost a dozen turns. I kept selling my tobacco resources (Egypt paid 17 gold/turn!) and pushing towards Computers tech with my research. Come on Paris, you can do it!

In the end, I did manage to win the race:

Paris finished its eighth and final wonder on Turn 204. The Kongo missed out and were left with absolutely nothing in Civ6's very cruel system of lost wonder races. It was a near-run thing, as Mbwila's Big Ben construction was only missing part of the roof and the very top of the tower itself. I think their city was about 90% finished with the wonder. Whew. Chalk this small victory up to the player's ability to optimize cities and a close attention to detail. If I hadn't been watching the gossip spam every turn, I would have missed that initial message about the Kongo starting the wonder, and I never would have been able to finish Big Ben in time. This was quite a satisfying feeling.

By the way, note that La Rochelle has finished Great Zimbabwe in the above picture. I never had any doubts about landing that one, as the requirements are too specific for the AI to manage without hitting on a large amount of dumb luck. Great Zimbabwe requires a Commercial district with a market to be placed next to a cattle resource, and that's pretty rare unless specifically preparing for it. On the other hand, this is the only cattle resource anywhere near the starting position, so unless players specifically plan out their districts ahead of time there's a good chance that they could make the same mistake and leave themselves unable to build this one!

With a trio of inquisitors handling the incursions of foreign religious units, I had extra faith available to spend. Enhancing my religion again for a religious building didn't seem too appealing, since I had exactly one Holy Site district and the best options there were all gone. Instead, I remembered that I had built Mont Saint Michel earlier, and purchased another apostle, this one with the express purpose of engaging in combat...

And losing! Mont Saint Michel grants all apostles the Martyrdom promotion, causing them to create a religious relic upon death. I hurled this poor sap against a bunch of enemy apostles and wound up with the Holy Grail to show for it. That was worth 4 faith and 8 tourism, although the tourism was cut in half due to most of the other civs having researched Enlightenment civic by this point in time. Every bit counts though, and this was amusing enough that I had to share it.

I had four trade routes running to foreign civs by now: Kongo, Egypt, Rome, and Scandinavia. With most of the wonder construction finished and my cities past their initial development phase, I had less ned for internal trade routes and could start shifting some of them over to other civs for the tourism bonus. I also had my first opportunity to pass on a Great Person in ages, skipping the lousy Great Merchant that provides +1 diplomatic visibility with other civs. The AIs were actually strong enough in this game to recruit their own Great People and not force me to take everything, especially Kongo which was getting something like 35 Great Merchant points/turn. Then there was this little side project:

Remember how I said that I had been scanning the map for an additional river location? I finally found one in the tundra south of Rome, and after a long journey, an intrepid settler established the city of Boulogne. There were six tiles here that were eligible for chateaus, plus a niter resource that I lacked anywhere in my homeland. That was more than enough to justify an additional city, with my own core cities having plenty of amenities to keep them all happy. By the time of this screenshot, I had already mined the niter and constructed a trio of chateaus with a cash-rushed builder. I had also swapped into the policy that discounts tile purchases and bought all of the tiles along the border with Rome. Trajan didn't seem to like this all that much, but I promised not to settle any more cities, and hoped that would resolve the matter. Chateaus were now kicking in over 20 culture/turn and closing in on half of my total cultural output.

In even better news, Computers tech was due to finish on the following turn. What effect would that have on tourism?

From 204 tourism/turn to 472 tourism/turn. Yep, I'd say that Computers tech made a wee bit of a difference there. With base tourism approaching 500/turn, I was now starting to hit terminal velocity on my pursuit of the victory condition. Even with no modifiers at all, 500 base tourism translates into 3500 tourism/turn when directed to the seven other civs in this game, and since each foreign tourist requires 1200 tourism on a Standard sized map, I would be pulling in about 3 foreign tourists on average each turn. An AI civ would need to be averaging 300 culture/turn to match that, and none of them were remotely close to that mark. (The Kongo was the cultural leader and getting about 55 culture/turn.) And all of those numbers were before modifiers, with my empire able to do quite a bit better after factoring in the bonuses from trade routes and Open Borders. The question now was how quickly I could win the game, not whether I would win the game.

I had been shooting all along for a victory date between Turn 200 and Turn 250. I set up the scoring so that faster finishes are rewarded with significant victory bonuses, with each 50 turn bracket worth 10 more points than the next. I would need to build five additional wonders to make up for a later scoring date, and that clearly wasn't going to happen. I also doubt that anyone will be able to win a victory under these conditions before Turn 200 - I will be seriously impressed if anyone can pull it off! For my game, the best option would be to win before Turn 250 and score the very nice 40 scenario points for a fast finishing date. I had 37 turns remaining at the time that I picked up Computers tech and I thought it would be enough by a decent margin. The foreign tourists start coming in fast and furious in the lategame, as we discovered in the Commercial Free Programming succession game. We went from halfway there to done in about a dozen turns.

This headache threatened to toss a monkey wrench into my plans. Rome and America launched a joint war against my civ on Turn 216 for inexplicable reasons. Perhaps Trajan was angry over my settling of Boulogne? It's hard to say, and a lot of the AI war declarations seem to be essentially random with someone that they happen to dislike. I had actually had good relations with Rome prior to this, due to fulfilling the "large empires" AI agenda and having Open Borders along with a foreign trade route. Anyway, there was no military threat here, that wasn't the problem. The issue was that I couldn't have Open Borders or a foreign trade route running with these turkeys so long as they remained at war with me, and that was a potential decrease of -50% tourism with their civs. What a pain. This is why I wanted to get to Computers tech early on, to give myself plenty of a cushion in case the AI decided to do something stupid. Hopefully I had enough tourism to be safe.

I spent the following turns using my privateers to destroy American/Roman trade routes and kill their embarked units. I actually had four privateers, due to Rouen building a pair of privateers to fulfill the Electronics quest and then getting each of them doubled from Venetian Arsenal. I must have destroyed close to a dozen units this way while waiting for the AI leaders to talk to me again. (They will not discuss peace for 10 turns after declaring war, which is probably a good thing. There's no easy way to wriggle out of war with a quick payoff.) All of this was largely pointless aside from the effect on tourism.

Here's something that was a genuine help. Remember how I passed up that useless Great Merchant earlier? Sarah Breedlove turned out to be the next Great Merchant on the list, and she was exactly what I was looking for in this game. Another +25% tourism towards all other civilizations with which I had a trade route? Yes, please! The Kongo had been kind enough to recruit the previous Great Person and open up the chance for me to grab the one I wanted. Note the bar graph at 728/660, which you'll normally never see without passing on a previous Great Person of some kind. Although this system is infinitely better now that the AI is actually constructing districts and buildings and starting to compete in earnest for these Great People, the overall mechanic still requires a lot of work. As I've said before, all Great People should be available for each era that has been reached, and the player (and AI civs) should be able to pick whatever one they want. This whole system whereby only one Great Person is available at a time, with no choice on which Great Person that may be, needs a total revamping. It's so close to being an excellent system and needs just that one change to make the mechanic work.

The main drama in the closing turns was whether I would be able to construct the Eiffel Tower before time ran out on my cultural victory:

I was building it in Lyon, which had emerged in the lategame as my best production city. Ruhr Valley had gone here earlier as a result of my goof at the capital where there was no eligible tile for the wonder. I thought that was a mistake at the time, but it proved to be a blessing in disguise. Paris had too many wonders occupying tiles by this point, and it was no longer a very strong production city. Without the "capital-only" bonuses from the city states, it would only have been an average city. Lyon was almost all hill tiles and even had the buildings from the Encampment district kicking in bonus production. With 132 production/turn, it had no difficulty burning through the Eiffel Tower in about a dozen total turns, just as it had constructed Hermitage a little bit earlier. The wonder completed without issue on schedule. Again, what a difference from my first game, when I was sitting around having no clue how to build anything and all the wonders had 50+ turn ETAs. That wasn't Civ6's fault, it was my fault. I simply didn't know how to manage an empire effectively yet. Even with the removal of the shared factory/power plant region bonuses in this patch, production still seemed pretty solid in this game. My cities didn't seem to have any problems building districts, buildings, or wonders. I'm finding it harder and harder to believe those who continue to claim that "everything takes forever to build" in Civ6. It certainly hasn't been my experience.

Anyway, I continued running foreign trade routes, now with the +50% bonus to tourism:

Don't be fooled by the (as usual) terrible interface. All five of those foreign trade routes are getting the +50% bonus to tourism. I have no idea why two of them are grayed out and why the trade route to Arabia was missing the tourism indicator entirely. Naturally I also had Open Borders with all of these civs as well. With 496 base tourism/turn as the base value and a +75% modifier with all of these civs, I was over 5000 total tourism/turn after applying all modifiers, stacking up 4 foreign tourists on average each turn. By Turn 231, the writing was on the wall:

Note how the chateaus have little tourism icons over them, indicating that they also produce tourism in addition to their culture. (There is no other indication in-game that the chateaus are producing tourism, and this is extremely easy to miss - as I did while playing! As usual, the interface in this game is needlessly bad.) Anyway, this was a really fun game, and I had a great time. Now let me just click next turn and enjoy the victory animation...

Say what? The game is still going on? What the... where did all those domestic tourists come from?!

Somehow the Kongo had gone between turns from having 134 domestic tourists to having 156 domestic tourists. I thought that I had seen this happen once or twice before, and figured that it was my imagination playing tricks on me. This time though, I caught the numbers leaping upwards in realtime, and was able to document it with a pair of screenshots. Nevertheless, this was both frustrating and highly confusing. The basic formula for domestic tourists is that every 100 culture = 1 domestic tourist. There was no way that Mvemba had managed to get 2200 culture in a single turn to produce an additional 22 domestic tourists all at once. Again, what was happening here?!

This was so confusing that I had to go back and research it after the game was over. As best I can tell, the Kongo's numbers jumped upwards because they completed some kind of civics boost, an "inspiration" in the official terminology. Culture accumulated through civic boosts counts the same for domestic tourism as culture actually produced by a civilization. Mvemba likely stumbled into completing a civics boost at random, or used a Great Person that provided a civics boost. Or he could have entered a new era; the AIs on higher difficulties get random research/civic boosts every time that they enter a new era. Given that Mvemba picked up 2200 culture in a single turn, he probably wound up with two or even three civic boosts at once here in some fashion.

That answered the question of what had taken place. Unfortunately it did nothing to change the fact that now I needed to pick up even more foreign tourists in order to win the game. I had the good fortune of having an 18 turn grace period here, as it was only Turn 232 and there was plenty of time to go before hitting the next scoring breakpoint. My philosophy throughout the game had been to push for maximum tourism at all points in time, figuring that it would be hard enough to get below that Turn 250 benchmark. Now I was glad that I had done so. It was going to be hard enough just to achieve that milestone; winning "too fast" wasn't something I had to worry about.

The extra turns did allow me to pull off this move. I had no Great Person points in the Writer, Artist, or Musician category, and I never had had any. However, I did have plenty of money to spend, and so I cashed in 6500 gold to purchase Goethe via patronage. This had no real effect on my game, and I mostly did it for kicks. Getting a Great Writer after generating zero Great Writer points the entire game was highly amusing. (Will anyone try to pursue these using the Wildcard policy cards? I generally think those are some of the weakest options to pick, but perhaps someone will find a clever use for them here.)

While I was waiting, I used Eiffel Tower's appeal bonus to build seaside resorts on the few tiles in my empire that qualified. They never seem to contribute too much to tourism in my games, perhaps because I'm always building on the tiles and lowering their appeal as a result. I think I ended up with two or three total seaside resorts before time ran out. I also researched to Telecommunications on the tech tree, which put me into the Information Age and generated the maximum tourism possible for my haul of wonders. Ancient era wonders like Stonehenge were producing 9 tourism base, doubled by France's innate wonder tourism bonus, doubled again by Computers tech, to a total of 36 tourism/turn. Not bad at all. I said in my Kongo One City Challenge game that it wasn't possible to win a cultural victory using wonder tourism alone, and that proved to be false in this game. For France, under the right circumstances, you really can win just by building wonders alone.

As far as wonder scoring goes, I was completely finished at this point. All of the wonders on the tech tree were already constructed, either by me or one of the AI civs. On the civics tree, Hermitage had been the last one that I would get. Cristo Redentor was the next closest at Mass Media, and I couldn't even reach that civic before I would win a cultural victory. There was no point in giving up ten points of fast finish scoring in exchange for two points of wonder scoring. Sydney Opera House and the Maracana Stadium were even further out of reach, and even if I were to get them too, those six points would be less than the ten points I'd score by finishing before Turn 250. As a result, I would be very happy to take my cultural win when it arrived rather than trying to delay to build additional wonders.

The Kongo cultural kookiness not withstanding, Cultural victory was achieved on Turn 238:

Mvemba and Trajan had launched another joint war against my civ on the turn before I won. Teddy had also never signed peace with me from the previous war, and as a result my game ended with three AI civs at war with me. Well, that's why I tried to keep those trade routes and Open Borders going whenever possible - you never know when the AI is going to go into full-on crazypants mode. My French civ had been tearing it up from a tourism perspective at the end of the game, picking up 27 foreign tourists in the previous six turns. The Kongo had accumulated exactly zero domestic tourists in that same span. If that sounds strange, it's because I was stealing them away each turn. (Every time you pick up a foreign tourist, it subtracts a domestic tourist from that civ.) This might not have matched the insane 984 base tourism/turn we had going in the Commercial Free Programming succesion game, but for a game with heavy variant restrictions this was pretty darn good.

I took this screenshot after the victory cinematic using "Just One More Turn" and put the game into debug mode to show the revealed minimap. The AI civs settled everything available, leaving out only the tundra wastelands at the north and south poles and a huge patch of desert over by China. In any place where a human would want to place a city, they founded one. Again, it's such a striking contrast from the release version of the game, and particularly the Adventure One event. I found a similar result when I looked at the postgame bar graphs for districts/buildings constructed, which are my rough indicators for overall civ strength. While I led in both categories, a lot of that was due to my larger size as a civ and having more total cities. America, Arabia, and especially the Kongo all kept close pace with me. The Kongo also recruited more Great People than I did, almost double my total! As I said, such an improvement from three months ago.

I had to show the wonder bar graph. I ended up with 18 in total, with the various AI empires combining for one or two apiece. Out of the 30 total wonders in Civ6 right now, they broke down like this in my game:

Wonders Constructed (18):
Big Ben
Eiffel Tower
Forbidden City
Great Lighthouse
Great Zimbamwe
Hagia Sophia
Hanging Gardens
Mont St. Michel
Ruhr Valley
Terracotta Army
Venetian Arsenal

Missed (6):
Chichen Itza
Great Library
Potala Palace

Didn't Reach on Civics Tree (3):
Cristo Redentor
Sydney Opera House

Unbuildable (3)
Bolshoi Theatre
Huey Teocalli

With 40 scenario points added for winning a Cultural victory before Turn 250, that puts my overall score for this game at 76 scenario points. At the risk of underestimating the community and looking foolish on report day, I think that will be an excellent score and right around the winner's mark for this competition. A victory before Turn 200 is unlikely with these variant restrictions, and I was able to get almost every wonder that I targeted over the course of this game. The biggest limitation is culture; there just isn't a way to reach many of the wonders on the civics tree quickly enough to build them. Unless I'm missing something, I don't see a way to get to wonders like Sydney Opera House or Maracana and still win before Turn 250. Maybe if someone used spies to great effect and managed to steal a bunch of Great Works from other civs, or if they managed to land Petra or Chichen Itza to get an additional powerful city that I lacked. There certainly are ways to do better than this. However, I'm not seeing a way to do significantly better than this at the moment. We'll see what everyone else manages to turn up.

This was my favorite game of Civ6 to date. For all its problems, I'm willing to say now that Civ6 has moved from being a "decent" game at release to being a "good" game now. A significant portion of the Realms Beyond playerbase still doesn't seem interested in Civ6, and I think that's a real shame. This game is vastly superior to Civ5, and there's tons of potential for all sorts of fun events that we can run, not to mention the possibility of Civ6 Multiplayer. I love Civ4 as much as anyone, but I don't intend to keep playing the same game for the rest of my life. I'm having a blast, and I think a lot of our community regulars are really missing out on a great experience. Well, that's their loss.

I hope everyone else who played this game had fun too. Thanks for reading.