Multiplayer Game, December 8, 2005: 4 on 4 Teamer

Game: 4 vs. 4 Team Game
Map: Team Battleground (North/South)
Settings: Standard-sized map, 2 city-elim, No Barbs, 120 turns
MP defaults: Quick, Fast turn timer

This is by no means the second Multiplayer game that I've run of Civ4 since it's been released, but it is the second one in which I took enough screenshots to deem it worthy of a report. By this point, Civ4 had been out for six weeks and our Illuminati group had more or less filled out its roster to about 20 people, which is what we were shooting for. With a large Multiplayer tournament coming up, we were trying to get some practice playing as a team for the events in which we would later have to compete. On this night, I found myself in a 4 on 4 game with what were some new faces for me: Islandia, Mark Weston, and xma.

The map was Team Battleground, an ultra-small map designed specifically for team MP games. The North/South version of this (which is the default, and probably the most played) sets one team in the north and one team in the south, with an expanse of hostile desert in the middle. There is not a lot of room, however, even on the Standard size. The team that can gain control of the middle of the map is usually the one that will go on to win the game.

Our four opponents were agentk, Karl XII, Lordburger, and longhorn4. I did not know any of these players, although I understand that they are all on the Civ4Players ladder. Their team picked civs that were heavily geared towards early wonders: TWO Gandhi/Indias on their team (one which showed up yellow, which we kept calling Egypt!) and a Napoleon/France. It was pretty clear what their gameplan was going to be, with 3 Industrious civs. As for our group, Islandia took Inca, Mark Weston took Qin/China, xma took Kublai/Mongol, and I went Random on the civ choice. Play the hand you are dealt. I ended up getting Mansa Musa, which wasn't so bad, although that wouldn't have been my choice. Here was the starting position:

Well, from this it was clear we were on the north side of the map. I'm, umm, REALLY on the north side of the map. I have one resource, game, and that's it. Plus, that lake cuts me off from moving to the east, basically limiting my expansion to the west - and I'm already on the western third of the map. Ah well, no use complaining about it, you've got to play the hand you're dealt. Even if it's a rather poor one. Islandia and xma were immediately south of me, and Mark was off by himself on the east end of the map. He clearly was going to have the toughest job of anyone, since we would be unable to support him much at all until relatively late in the game. That might not sound so tough, but what if two or three people on the other team rush you all at once? Easier said than done.

As you can see, the initial research choice was Meditation. We discovered that on the same turn as the other team, but they founded the religion (one of the Indias got it). Blah. What is it with me and "tieing" stuff in MP? Lost the last 3 ties on wonders/religion foundings! In the long run, it was mostly irrelevant, but it did mean that agentk's India (who got Buddhism) would see his borders expand very quickly early on and dominate score for much of the game.

We aggressively pushed warriors (and quechuas) down towards the other team early on. Two of their team members were building wonders at this point, so that gave us the initiative and we used it well, I think. agentk's India (on the western part of the map) was shielded by this bizarre geographical formation of the land that limited access to his territory, but Karl XII's "yellow" India was roughed up quite a bit, due to pressure from xma. Mark even grabbed one of his first two Fast Workers and carted it back to China, which was a major victory for us. Similarly, Mark had a warrior outside longhorn4's France that wasn't posing a threat, but which delayed his construction of a worker for ages. Although their team build Stonehenge and the Oracle very early on, the combination of pausing to build wonders SUPER early and the pressure we were applying stunted their long-term growth quite a bit. And yes, even in a 120-turn MP game, you do have to pay attention to stuff like that.

What am I doing at this point? With my distance from the other team, there wasn't much of an opportunity to apply early pressure, so I focused on quick expansion. I was the first civ on the map with a settler out, and I quickly built up to three cities total (then I was out of room. Just look at the start!) When I wasn't working on a settler or worker, I grew my capital thusly:

Financial civ on a lake! Instant #1 in GDP in the early going! When I swapped Timbuktu over to its commerce configuration our research time noticeably sped up. That was the best thing I could do to help the team at this point, so I tried to run that whenever I wasn't working on workers/settlers.

After getting horses/metals hooked up, the other team finally kicked out our initial choking warriors and for a little while we didn't have many units in their territory. However, by this point we had already reached Horseback Riding and were beelining for Construction, so it wasn't long before Horse Archers and cats started raining down on their civs anew. xma's Keshiks were doing the heavy lifting for us at this point, rushing over to help Mark defend against their onslaught when needed (poor Mark was facing a double team constantly, and occasionally a triple team) and then racing over to the west side of the map to help Islandia press the attack on India. Kublai's Mongols are a great civ to have in the center anchoring your team's position!

I planned to switch over to the attack too, but before doing so I decided to use our team's early access to Mathematics to our advantage by making a stab at the Hanging Gardens. This is a VERY powerful wonder in team MP games, as you and all your teammates get the population boost. Well, their team had both Industrious civs and stone, but I did some figuring in my head and reasoned that with the need to build an aqueduct before Hanging Gardens, I could probably get there first if I used a number of forest chops to speed the wonder along. It was a bit risky, but my educated guess turned out to be correct, and 7 or so forest chops successfully saw me land the wonder. This boosted our score past theirs permanently (the lead had been oscilating back and forth previously) and put us in very good shape. With the wonder done, I was also free to go whole hog on building Horse Archers to support Islandia, who would build the slower-moving axes/cats/elephants to support a balanced attack.

By the time that we were down to about 50 turns left, we were pressing the attack on India in earnest:

Just as Mark was vulnerable to a dogpile on our side, agentk's India was susceptible to the same on theirs. Although it's a bit tough to see in this picture, there are actually only two possible ways into India: one in the west (where the Inca/Malinese units are pouring in) and one in the east (where xma's Mongols are arriving in force). Everything to the north was blocked by peaks and water; thus there were only two "Gateways to India" (heh). India's land was almost disgustingly fertile with resources, and the iron ONE tile south of his capital was a bad break for us, to say the least. But we were on the attack now, pillaging stuff and causing no end of problems for agentk. He threw all his forces at xma's stacks outside his capital, and managed to wipe them out. However - this is a teamer game, and one player can't adequately defend against three. xma was sending support over to Mark consistently to help him weather their attacks, but their team did no such thing for agentk. agentk defended his capital, but Islandia and I (mostly Islandia) took out Calcutta:

It's all about the teamwork. We had it, and they were found wanting.

We were researching Machinery to get Mark access to those nasty Cho-Ko-Nus; there were still some more close calls over there in the east, but he managed to hold on and not lose anything. A very fine job of playing against tough odds, and kind of a thankless job really. No glory in defending what you have, but it was undoubtedly the most important role any of us were playing in this game. Stopping their two-on-one over there allowed us to triple-team one of their guys and knock him to the canvas!

Islandia, xma, and I were closing in on agentk's capital now. At this point, he retired from the game because he had to leave, which meant that we were facing an AI India. That, of course, meant that India was doomed. Knowing that the game was almost over, I snapped a picture of my civ's territory:

So I ended up with 3 cities, tightly packed together, which between them have a total of 5 resources. Slim pickings here, but I think I managed to make the most of what I had, and that's all you can ask for. Notice that I am working NINE lake tiles to help out our economy (Financial on a lake, baby!) Since I had no room to expand, I built two settlers that I gifted to xma, and that helped out our points total a lot too. I probably should have built another one and gifted it to Mark (he didn't have the time or resources to build more settlers), but I didn't think of it until it was too late. Ah well. I also should have run an Engineer specialist in Djenne, which along with the Hanging Gardens would have gotten us a Great Engineer, but didn't think to do that either. The game ended before I had enough points just from the Hanging Gardens to get a Great Person. Still, I'd say I did a decent job here with this iceball. Due to my high population and building of a wonder, I was even #2 in score at the time the game ended, which - believe me - is a mystery to me too.

Like I said before, India was doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed. It probably would have been anyway, but especially so with an AI at the helm. The triple team applied by Islandia, xma, and me was successful:

Boom. Lose two cities under these rules, and you're done. The remaining members of the other team conceded shortly thereafter.

Another game, and another successful conclusion for our group. I tell you, we're going to make some noise down the road. Lots of very skilled players here. Many thanks to the other members of my team - Islandia, Mark Weston, and xma - for protecting me from the enemy early on (when I had 1 military unit for 3 cities!) and working together so well to put the heat on the enemy team. I anticipate many more successes with this group down the road.