After a couple of nondescript turns, I suddenly found myself introduced to a new face in 350BC:
Victoria... interesting. But where in the world is Vicky?
Ah, down there in the south. I was introduced to the English via the natural spread of Hinduism. Kinda cool that I can spy on what's going on down there at London (for instance, I can see that the English were the ones to build Stonehenge). Vicky even converted to Hinduism, which put us on a solid footing diplomatically.
Now for the downside. Notice that I've been introduced not just to Victoria, but also to Mansa Musa and Huayna Capac. They are ALL on a team together - three Financial civs. Umm... that's not good. I just assumed that the AIs would be grouped into teams of two, but it appears that the reality is much worse than that. I don't have Alphabet yet, so I can't see what techs the Financial behemoths are running around with, but I have the distinct feeling that this is not going to go well. Mansa Musa's GNP is already way above mine, and skyrocketing at a scary rate.
I did open trade and borders with Victoria, if only so that Cathy could demand that I cut off deals later on, heh. A couple turns later, the Priest specialist in Damascus finally popped a Great Prophet, and I constructed the Hindu shrine in my capital (200BC). Here's a peek inside the city:
Obviously I've chosen to go the cottage spam route here for commerce, and the floodplains along with the cows/sheep will allow me to retain decent production from the hills. I would eventually cut down all but two forests and replace them with cottages. I already had 11 Hindu cities adding income to my shrine, and that was continuing to go up as I founded more cities. I would have had a pretty good Priest tally under the Adventure Three scoring here!
Even better news came in the following turn, as Medina somehow managed to land the Pyramids:
I never expected to get the wonder, I was building it planning on missing the wonder and getting some research cash. But instead I landed the Pyramids themselves! Not sure what those AI teams were doing to miss out on the biggest early wonder. Now the obvious move would be to swap to Representation, but no - not going to do that here. Cathy and Alex both have Hereditary Rule as their favorite civic, and so that's where I was going to be parked too for the next thousand or so years. Since I was researching Monarchy at the time, I gained virtually nothing at this point from the Pyramids, EXCEPT denying it to the AI civs, which was a huge plus. I definitely do NOT want Vicky and Mansa running around in Representation in BC years! And who knows; as a Spiritual civ, I may be able to get some value from swapping to Police State or Universal Suffrage down the road. For now though - Hereditary Rule to cultivate my neighbors.
Then on the following turn, the wonder cascade took out three more wonders:
Wait a minute, this isn't Civ3! There's no wonder cascade anymore! Chalk this up to an incredible coincidence, but our long-term vets will surely find this picture amusing.
Several turns later, Cathy popped up requesting a deal for the first time:
I have absolutely no need for clams, but as far as this game goes, whatever Cathy wants, Cathy gets! (Almost reminds me of the RBD19 "Big Brother" variant from way back when, heh.)
My notes from the following turns are pretty sparse; not a whole lot was going on outside of the peaceful building of my civ. I had some more barbs show up around 1AD, but my chariots were able to deal with them without too much scrambling. I researched Alphabet not to open up tech trading (it was turned off for this game, and that was a BIG deal - more on that later) but to clear the way to Literature and the Great Library. That's a particularly powerful wonder for a Philosophical civ, and I wanted to make sure I would land it in my capital. Even before I finished the library, I had already popped a Great Scientist out of one of my cities (forgot which one) and used it for an Academy. That was definitely a big boost. I love Philosophical civs - when you play them, you'd better make sure to get some value out of the Great People!
Here's the actual completion shot:
400AD is pretty fast for the Great Library, especially for a game without tech trading (where the tech pace inevitably is much slower). Have I mentioned that I had both stone and marble on hand? That was the one area where the starting position was blessed with resources. No metals until the player was strong enough to settle in the far north or east, an extreme scarcity of happiness resources (gold was the only one close by; silver and dyes were also available, but not until much later) - but both marble and stone. It's practically unfair for a Philosophical civ to have those resources, making constructing wonders a snap. Then you get the Philosophical synergy with the wonders, leading to yet more Great People... well, it's as close as you're going to get to the Industrious/Philosophical trait pairing, which we took out of the game to avoid just that scenario! I ended up building a lot of wonders I would otherwise have skipped, just because it was so painless to do so.
Here's where things stood in 500AD:
Yellow arrows point to chariots on barb patrol. I was out to seven cities now, and my eighth city is planned for the extreme north to grab silver and (finally) copper. My cities might LOOK decent by the city sizes, but that was with multiple defenders providing Hereditary Rule happiness, and with religion + temple in most cities. That gold was still the only happiness resource I had! (My last three or four games have all been starved for happy resources, so I've been getting plenty of practice in dealing with it. All of the luxury resources in RB21 succession game were a welcome change!) I also recently researched Construction, and am building some cats to take over the barb cities near me. In addition to Khoisan in the east, there was another barb city (Cimmerian) off screen to the south. Cathy already had soldiers outside that one, so I knew I had to hurry! I would have taken the barb cities earlier, but I had no metals for axes or swords. Chariots ain't city busters, that's for sure.
I also included my relations with Cathy and Alex in the bottom of that shot. Already up to +9 with Cathy, and +8 with Alex. I figured that I could get about +5 with each leader from shared faith, and another +4 or +5 from shared civic if I stuck with Hereditary Rule long enough. Along with the pluses from years of peace and Open Borders, I hoped that would be enough to get me to Friendly with both civs. Indeed, I hit Friendly relations with Cathy just a few turns later in 540AD! The notoriously touchy Alex continued to hover at the upper end of Pleased, however.
Here's what my tech situation looked like compared to the AIs:
Unfortunately, I can only see what techs they have that I lack, not vice versa (the techs that I have and they are missing). Nevertheless, when I discovered Civil Service in 640AD, I knew that I had gotten there first because there had been no civic messages of AIs swapping to Bureaucracy. Backed by a fully cottaged capital, running Bureaucracy/Academy combo, with the Great Library AND a shrine to keep the science rate high, I was flying through the tech tree very quickly. This being a Large map, where tech costs are higher and the capital is proportionately less important, I knew I couldn't keep this up forever - but I was going to enjoy it while it lasted. I actually managed to outresearch the Financial team for a long time in the middle ages, which was a big surprise.
I expected my third Great Person to be a Scientist, but I ended up getting a Prophet instead out of Mecca, no doubt due to the Hindu shrine. With Theology researchable in just 5 turns, I decided to use him as a super-specialist instead:
That got me up to 90% research, and you can see by the Metal Casting bar above that I was already making strong tech progress. Since I also knew that Mecca was going to be my Wall Street city, that Prophet super-specialist would be adding 15gpt even in the late game. Definitely a better deal than holding him for a golden age, especially this early on with so many turns still to go.
Down in the jungle peninsula to the southeast, I took Cimmerian with an assist from Cathy!
She was nice enough to knock the City Garrison II archer down to 1.4 health, and I mopped up from there. Of course, it was her stupid attacks that had promoted him to CGII in the first place, but thanks were still in order. That's our girl! Oh, and look - dyes! Another happiness resource, yay!
About a dozen turns later, after my cats had rested and knocked down the walls, Khoisan also went down:
The location was not where I would have chosen to put a city, but I planned my dotmap around it accordingly. Anjar above will take the corn resource, while Khoisan uses the fish (that way, they both have plenty of food). I would later put another city to the northeast (where there was a pigs resource for food and another gold) and a final city to the southeast, since there was a corn resource in the desert. ANY food resource plus coastal tiles is a city worth founding!
I was pleased to get this message two turns later:
No, not that Hinduism had spread in Coventry - although that was nice too. I was happy to see that Islam, the final religion, had been founded by someone NOT on my continent. Taoism had only been taken a couple turns earlier, actually, but *I* was only three turns from getting it myself. (I didn't want to do that, but I would have if it was still out there.) This ensured that my continent would remain purely Hindu, which had been my goal all along. My one fear was that Cathy or Alex would found one of the last religions - probably an unrealistic fear, but it was something that I had been fretting over. I'm a little paranoid at times, you see.
Finally, FINALLY Alex crossed over to Friendly relations just before 1000AD:
And now I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, with the assurance that no one on my continent would ever attack me. As we all know, Alex is really a loose cannon - I hadn't been taking anything for granted. But now the Hindu team was banding together to fight against the Financial team down in the south. United we stand! Divided we fall!
By the way - I'm sure Alex will wreck havoc on at least one person's game, and I'll be curious to see if they can recover from it. You've got to do everything possible to butter him up with religion and shared civics!
I thought that that would be the last item of note before the 1000AD date rolled around, but nope - there was more big news in the works:
Team Financial is coming after Cathy! What do you think is the over/under on number of turns before she comes asking for my help? 10? 20? You know it's only a matter of time.
Here's how things stood in 1000AD:
I'm out to twelve cities now, and I still have several more dots to fill in (note the small yellow circles). Research continues to fly along at rapid pace, with the new cities contributing shrine income to help with their maintenance costs (you can also support more cities on a Large map too). Mecca is building Angkor Wat, uh, because it can - and it's a good wonder for Spiritual civs to have. Medina was missionary central for ages on end, working to convert not just my cities, but Cathy's and Alex's too. I put the National Epic in Damascus, as you can see; it wasn't a perfect location, but I figured, better to get it going now and get some value out of it than wait until later on when Great People aren't as important. Najran was a fantastic commerce city while Baghdad and Anjar (a bit later) would become shield powerhouses. Everything else was more of a commercial city/fishing village. I've blown way past the civs on my own continent, and have actually passed the leading Financial civs in score (although their team as a whole obviously outscores me).
The Demographics looked pretty good too. I couldn't believe that I was #1 in GNP, with all those Financial civs teamed together down there! Aside from solider count, I was killing the AIs in all the major categories - and even that didn't matter, because I was Friendly with the only civs that could reach me. Certainly this is a better start than I expected when I signed up for this game. It may even allow me to think about pursuing something beyond squeaking out a space victory later on. (I can dream, can't I?)
I was now friends with the civs on my continent, but the days of my builder's paradise couldn't last too much longer. Cathy was at war, and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I was drawn into the conflict...