Civ4 is great, but sometimes you just want to break some heads.
One of the problems with Civ3 was that the AI civs were totally incompetent at defending themselves. Once you built up a large enough stack of the best unit (and there was a best unit in each age; swords, then knights, cavs, etc.) you could romp your way from city to city with relatively little danger. The only real threat the AI civs posed in Civ3 was either 1) early in the game before the player was ready to defend his civ, or 2) when the AI was propped up with ridiculous bonuses, for example on Deity. Therefore, when Civ4 was in development, one of Soren's goals was to make the AI civs much stronger on the defensive. Now the AI civs guard their cities with lots of defenders, make use of defensive artillery for collateral damage, and know how to get defensive bonuses from culture and walls/castles. The AI will even culture-bomb a city in order to improve its defenses! But the tradeoff for this was that domination and conquest victories became much more difficult to achieve, and the AI civs' skill at research (another one of their strengths) often doesn't provide the player with enough time to go out conquering. Therefore, space victories have become the norm, with the occasional diplo victory thrown in the mix. (Many people have even unfavorably compared Civ4 to Civ3 in this regard, amazingly preferring an inferior AI to one that knows how to defend itself!)
Well I've gotten a lot of space race victories lately, so I'm not going to do that here. I want to go out and smash someone. Crack some skulls, burn some cities - you get the idea. To make it easier to do that before someone launches, I'm going to play on a Small map with only four other civs. I suppose that's a little unfair, as the dynamics of the game are different with fewer civs, but it shouldn't invalidate things completely. I am still playing Emperor, just to keep things interesting. Balanced map script, with Low sea level to provide more space. And after getting pummeled by Cathy in my last solo game, I decided to take her for a spin here. Creative/Financial seems like a good combo for this kind of effort. Here we go!
I had gold and cows at the starting position, two of the best resources you can have on hand. I chose to found on the starting tile, off the river but on the coast. I thought for a good minute about whether to move, but I didn't want to waste one of the floodplains by founding on them, and there didn't seem to be much gain in moving, so ultimately I stayed in place. First build was a worker (since this was a Small map without too much land to scout), while I researched Animal Husbandry. Since I had Hunting and Mining to start, I then researched Archery followed by Pottery. My scout popped The Wheel from a hut in 3760BC, which was a nice little boost. (I got maps from the other three huts I popped though, so it wasn't exactly crazily good luck.)
After building the worker, I spent a couple turns on a barracks while waiting for my Archery research to finish, then went right onto an archer. Never built a warrior in this game. That's about when I snapped the above picture (3000BC). The archer coincided nicely with the growth of Moscow to size 3, so I went onto settler after that. Meanwhile, my worker hooked up the cows and gold, then build cottages on the floodplains. And there you have my opening (I always try to describe the first 30 or so turns in close detail for the reader, then my notes get looser after that).
Although the land was better to the east, I had horses to the south, so that's where the second settler went. Knowing that this was a Balanced map with resources guaranteed to be near all the starting positions (guaranteed to be there for the AI civs too!), I rearched Bronze Working early on. Then, since there was a rice resource in the jungle at St. Petersburg, I went ahead and researched Iron Working soon too, and got that hooked up. St. Pete's turned out to have copper as well in addition to horses and rice, and so I early on decided to ignore commerce completely there and focus entirely on production. It had a lot of hills too that would later become quite useful. So commerce at the capital (with its gold tile and multiple floodplains cottages), shields at St. Pete. Remember that.
Early expansion phase was pretty uneventful. I met all the civs fairly early on, although there turned out to be quite a bit of land with the Low sea level setting, even on a Small map. Isabella was present and DID NOT found Buddhism (!) which went instead to Spiritual Asoka. Of course, Izzy would go on to found HinJewism, no surprises there. Louis was my closest neighbor to the east, while Mansa Musa rounded out the group as the game's only Financial civ (aside from me). Interesting mix. With Louis to the east, I sent my second settler over in that direction and founded Novgorod on the river, grabbing wines and iron. Here's what things looked like in 1280BC:
My commerce had been quite strong early on, with Moscow working a gold tile and three floodplains cottages (with Financial). After getting to Writing, I cleaned up the cheap monk techs and got to Priesthood. That's when I noticed that no one had built the Oracle yet, and that I could build it in less than 15 turns AND that I could research Code of Laws in even less time that that. Now here on Emperor, I didn't think there was any chance that I'd get to the wonder first, guessing that someone would have marble and take it, but I thought "what the hell?" since it had worked for me with the Great Library in my last game, and decided to take a shot. What I didn't know at the time was that there was no marble on the entire map (strange), and that the AI civs, for whatever reason, were slow in building the early wonders. Not sure why that was.
Imagine my surprise when I timed the Oracle and Code of Laws to finish at the same time in 900BC! First we found Confucianism:
Novgorod becomes the Holy City, and yes we want to convert to the religion. Now the free tech for the Oracle comes in, and you should be able to guess what I'm taking...
Civil Service slingshot on Emperor, baby! You gotta love it!
With my capital now working four floodplains cottages and a gold tile, with Bureaucracy civic at a ridiculously early date, I blew right past the AI civs in research. Even on Emperor. I so rarely play Financial civs that the boost they can get in the right circumstances surprised me here. Especially if your starting city is on a river, those Financial civs are GNP tigers! Anyway, I quickly distanced myself from the other AI civs, plus I had enough income to afford as many cities as I could found. The AIs had out-expanded me to this point, so the goal for the next thousand or so years was grabbing the rest of the available land and then building up to take away everything else that was left.
One thing that I decided might be useful would be a partner in crime, one solid ally who would help me secure my flank and slow down the teching of the other AIs. Since Louis and I were shaping up to share a long border, and he had no religion of his own, he seemed like a natural choice. My free Confucian missionary thus went not back to Moscow, but over to France to convert Louis. It took me a few turns to get a chariot for a secure escort, but the missionary did his job in 600BC:
Louis converted the next turn. Even I didn't know just how big of a strategic coup this was at the time, but it would become apparent eventually that this - along with the obvious Civil Service slingshot - were the strongest moves in my game. Anyway, here's how things looked at 500BC:
Unfortunately I still only had four cities at this point, and the south is already closed to me. Those Emperor AIs are fast! However, there was still some good land to the east, and I had a settler in production to claim the wheat/cows in the northeast. Then there was also a crabs/sheep spot just to the north of Novgorod that I was assured of getting, and possibly another site east of Rostov to get the pigs. (Rostov was a total space-filler, with zero resources, and I decided I would use it as a military pump since it didn't have much commerce potential). So it looked like I would get a max or seven or maybe eight of my own cities. Going to have to do a lot of conquering if that's the case!
By the way, note that despite the Civil Service slingshot, I'm still in next-to-last in score. Get used to it early on with Emperor!
And the demographics from 500BC. You certainly won't see that kind of financial dominance this early on Emperor very often! This was such a unique situation, I figured I'd better play a great game here or I would be kicking myself over it for a long time. Let's see if I could turn that edge in GNP into a military edge on the battlefield.
I was just building up my civ for a while after that last screenshot without anything too exciting going on. Yaroslavl was founded in the northeast, but it was under some serious cultural pressure, so I decided to go for Music and grab the free Great Artist there - again, not something you get to do that often on Emperor. While I was doing that, I caught a major diplomatic break in that two of the AI civs went to war with no prompting from me:
Louis went to war with Mansa Musa, and my exploring chariot happened to catch his attack force in the act! They battled over Kumbi Saleh for a while, poisoning their relations and slowing both civs down in the tech race. Excellent! Already a contrast from my last game. With Izzy sure to go crazy and declare war on someone at some point, we had a potential powder keg ready to go off here. I couldn't have drawn it up better.
I did get to Music first in 75AD, and detonated the Artist a couple turns later in Yaroslavl as planned:
That got me two of the spices to the west that Louis and I were fighting over, and along with the cultural help of Yekaterinburg (just barely in the picture on the extreme left) I would get control of Louis' third spice there. Then I sold his own spice back to him for silks! I always love doing that.
I hit the top of the tech tree first; perhaps a bit unusual in a game designed for conquest/domination, but I didn't see any point in attacking the AI until I had at least settled all the land around me, so I planned to build up my civ first and then attack in the middle ages with maces/cats/knights. I got Literature fairly early and started on the Great Library, carefully timing the build to finish after St. Pete's had already generated a Great Prophet from its Oracle. (I needed a Prophet for my Confucian shrine!) Moscow finished the Great Library in 275AD, further boosting its scientific output and generating me a Scientist for an Academy a little later down the road.
Meanwhile, St. Pete's Oracle culture got it up to the 500 mark rather quickly, so much so that I was soon putting pressure on the Indian city of Calcutta nearby. It was buried in jungle and thus was slow to build any cultural items of its own. In 400AD, I triggered my first revolt there!
Hey - wait a minute, that's the Christian holy city! Wouldn't it be awesome if I flipped a holy city? I wouldn't have even thought that was possible, but Asoka is sticking with Buddhism and thus that holy city is providing exactly 0 culture. Heh. Oh, and Izzy adopting Theocracy - why am I not surprised?
I completed the Kong Miao (Confucian shrine) in 425AD, not adding a lot of income at first but sure to become more useful with time. Here's how things stood in 500AD:
I still have not been in any wars, although now that my cities have grown out a bit and completed many of the early improvements, I'm starting to prepare some units and think about fighting down the road. Asoka will be the first target, of course; Bangalore and Calcutta will both be useful additions to my territory. Also note the city of Yakutsk. I've learned my lesson from my last game, and now *I* plan to be the one double-teaming enemy cities with my culture! My trio of "Y" cities (Yakutsk, Yekaterinburg, Yaroslavl) should be able to win their relative battles with Shangian, Chartres, and Lyons. It also helps to be Creative and get those oh-so-cheap theatres! (Seriously, don't underestimate the usefulness of cheap theatres and colosseums, especially for a warmonger in managing war weariness.)
As far as city specialization goes, I had Moscow, Novgorod, Yaroslavl, and Yekaterinburg all set up for commerce, with lots of cottages and city builds focused on libraries, markets, etc. The other three cities (St. Pete, Rostov, and the new Yakutsk) were focused on production and basically became huge barracks towns. This specialization worked better than I expected it to, and I resolved to try and create more cities devoted exclusively to building units in the future. It's certainly not true that every city needs a library!
Go on to the next page to hear about the first conflict...