Adventure Nineteen: The Worst Thing About Civ4

If you were paying close attention to the screenshots on the previous page, you might have seen that I was researching Polytheism after Code of Laws. There was a reason for that... I built Stonehenge early on, in 2000BC, and as a Philosophical civ it wasn't long before I generated a Great Prophet. Since I still I hadn't researched Masonry yet, that meant that I could lightbulb...

Civil Service, of course! Ordinarily I wouldn't make use of this kind of power play, but since we're breaking all the rules in this game anyway, why not? I'd also like to say that I planned this particular move, but it was pretty much an accident. I didn't see the combination until I completed Code of Laws research and saw that I was about to produce a Great Prophet. Lucky timing, there.

I was still a couple of turns of research short of Civil Service, so I couldn't adopt Bureacucracy civic immediately. I could hardly wait though - were we about to see FOUR turn settlers?! However, those plans were derailed when Huayna Capac decided to declare war three turns later:

Ummm... that could be trouble. Most of my cities are still defended by warriors! Let's take a look at what Huayna has incoming:

Whew! Fortunately he's full of hot air himself. The total attack force turned out to be a sword (seen above), and then a separate group of one sword and one spear. Ordinarily I would laugh that force off, but my situation is so weak that this trickle of units actually posed a serious threat. Actually had to hold off on revolting to Bureaucracy for a couple of turns because I couldn't afford the turn of anarchy! I whipped out an axe in Guangzhou and swapped to producing one normally in Beijing. My capital could build an axe every 2 turns, so it was in no danger, but I was worried about Guangzhou. I wasn't going to able to whip another axe in time to defend that city, so one would have to be enough!

As it turned out, it WAS just enough to hold the city:

The axe killed both attacking swordsman and spear, at 75% odds for each battle. The numbers were in my favor, but things could have gone VERY badly here if I had gotten a bad streak. Fortunately I survived without issue, and that was pretty much it for the Incan threat. They continued to send swords out to harass me, and I continued to cut them down with axes. There were a couple of turns where a pair of barb archers wandered down from the north to join in, and I actually LOST a 98% battle with an axe attacking one of them! Heh, bad time for that to happen. But with Beijing cranking out the axes, I was never really in serious danger after that first attack, although I did have some tiles pillaged.

Oh, good grief!

This is NOT what I need right now, argh! Stupid game. Monty is too aggressive for his own good, and with my small military + cultural border pressure on his cities, he must have been salivating at the opportunity to attack me. I even agreed to "cancel deals" with Victoria a few turns earlier to placate Montezuma, but obviously to no avail.

Well, let's take a look at his attack force:

Two chariots?! Geeze Monty, I expected better from you. Needless to say, the odds of two chariots defeating two axes fortified in a city with 40% cultural defenses were about zero percent, and I easily held off this particular thrust. The amusing part was that I went to whip a spear defender, then found I couldn't because I lacked Hunting tech! How often to you get hit by THAT cross-tree requirement?

These wars were mostly nuisances, but they did slow down my expansion a bit. Too bad this crowded start hasn't allowed me to REALLY cut lose with State Property civic! They were also kind of irritating; why were the AI civs picking on me? I knew the answer, of course (I was rated lowest in the "Power" category, and thus seen to be easy pickings), but it still wasn't much fun.

His sneak-attack having failed, Huayna was willing to sign peace at the outset of the AD era:

I just wanted to get out of these wars and consolidate my territory, so I took peace at the first opportunity. Almost certainly could have taken some Incan cities if I had been of the mind to do so, but there were other, more important priorities to deal with first. Still, I mentally added Huayna's name to "the list" and resolved to pay him back in time.

After getting Civil Service, I had followed the usual top of the tree path to pick up Alphabet next, which the AI civs once again stupidly ignored. (Why they fail to prioritize this crucial tech is beyond me! I know I suggested that this be fixed in Warlords, but I don't think it happened.) I held onto my Alphabet monopoly, while parlaying Code of Laws into Iron Working + Masonry + Sailing from Saladin, and Mathematics from Huayna. (Yes, Huayna! Since he declared war on ME, I could overlook his aggression and maintain decent relations.) That more or less caught me up on technology, while clearing my path to Literature and a sure Great Library in the capital.

I remained at war with the Aztecs, but Monty continued to send chariots at my western border, which I easily cut down with spears. That is, until the Aztecs showed up on my EASTERN border:

Say what?! How did they get over here! My city was in no danger, but I was definitely going to get pillaged. That is, until I noticed that Montezuma was now willing to talk peace, and on terms favorable to my civ:

That sounded plenty good to me, since I didn't really want to be in this war in the first place. Getting the two technologies was an added bonus. Just for fun, look at how many more cities I have compared to Montezuma. Just because I had been at war didn't mean that I had stopped building settlers wherever possible.

With peace finally achieved, here was a picture of my empire from 300AD:

The biggest change was the addition of extra cities in the east, over in what probably should have been Japanese territory by all rights. Sucks to be them - now they'd just have to take it from my cold, dead, hands if they wanted that land! (This is what it must have been like to play as the Deity AIs in Epic Ten!) Anyway, I managed to have 11 self-founded cities shortly after the change to AD years, while still remaining at a healthy 60% on the science slider. You won't see that in a typical game of Civ4! I'll eventually add two more space-fillers in that territory to the north, but this would more or less be my core for the majority of the game.

If you look closely at that above map, you'll see my pitiful lack of tile improvements across the board. I've mostly just hooked up resources and build roads to this point in time. I have a TOTAL of three cottages right now: two at Guangzhou and one at Xian. As far as the Demographics go, I'm ranked in 5th place in GNP, far behind the leaders. But with the arrival of peace, I can now have my workers go to town and start building up my infrastructure wholesale. The expansion phase is now over, and it's time to kick my economy into high gear.

Less than a dozen turns later in 500AD, I've already drawn even with the leaders in GNP:

That production stat is particularly amusing, fueled by my Bureaucracy-enhanced capital's crazy shield output. It's obvious that it's only a matter of time before I take the lead in ALL categories and blow past these AI turkeys. State Property is a very powerful civic, no doubt about it!

My second Great Prophet went to build the Kong Miao (Confucian shrine) in 300AD. Not much happened in the following years, as I mostly just built up my civ in peace for a lengthy period of time. I held off on converting to Confucianism for diplomatic reasons (my relations with the AIs were pretty sad), but I did spread the religion around to all my cities and made some significant cash out of it. It seemed even more powerful than usual, with my expenses being so low. Saladin declared war on Tokugawa in 740AD, but the AI-AI war ended up achieving nothing, as usual. Even though Civ3 did a lot of things very badly wrong, it was better in that regard than Civ4. Most of the wars between AIs are total snoozers in this game.

I had plenty of cities, but since I was running 80% science, I could support even more of them. I went after Machinery fairly early on, then started building maces in the capital. (Unfortunately, I didn't have a unit at 10XP to build Heroic Epic! That would have sped things up even more.) Time to dish out some payback with Huayna:

I attacked two turns later, heading for Machu Picchu. Huayna hit my stack with some catapults (as I was fully expecting), so I had to wait a turn or two to heal up before attacking the city. Meanwhile, Huayna sent out his own counter-attack force:

That's a pretty decent group there. If the AI keeps those units together and uses them to pillage, I'll have a devil of a time taking down that stack. In fact, the only stupid thing that Huayna can do right now is charge into my prepared defenses at Guangzhou...

Oh well, that's the AI we all know and love!

After the mass slaughter at Guangzhou, that pretty much did it for Huayna. He only had three core cities in the first place, and couldn't respond effectively once his reserve was gone. I built the Colossus for kicks in 1000AD (another wonder that the AI often avoids for no apparent reason), while my military continued rolling up the Incans without problems. Then I got this annoucement out of the blue:

Montezuma declaring war AGAIN. Wow, what a guy. So just to recap, we've had five total wars so far in this game, and four of them have involved my civ. I instigated one of them, but that still leaves three out of four AI declarations coming against the player. I think that this is ultimately "the worst thing about Civ4", the predictable way in which the war declarations inevitably come after the player all out of proportion to the number of civs. See, the AIs all build military units in about the same ratio, so in most games they're all about the same strength. The AI is programmed to attack "weak" civs, and on higher difficulty that's inevitably the player, so it feels like they're ganging up on the player (even though they are not specifically programmed to do so). Conversely, on low difficulty the player is always the "strongest" civ, so the AI doesn't attack the player at all, which is equally uninteresting. The wars come too often or not at all, with no middle ground. We actually need war declarations to be MORE random, because they're simply too predictable right now. If some civs would occasionally adopt an "Erratic" personality (to use a Master of Orion term), it would spice things up considerably.

In any case, so Montezuma decided to come after me again. Unlike the first time we tangled, I'm more than ready for him now. If you scroll back up the page, you'll see that I was researching Engineering tech before (for pikes), specifically to deal with this situation. Monty's got ivory for War Elephants, and I was expecting him to come after me.

Let the slaughter commence:

Yeah, that was fun.

Here's a truly classic picture. As my stack of doom advances on the Incan capital, I spot a galley fleeing the city. Get this: Huayna's moving defenders OUT of his capital?!

He had another city offshore, and I guess these units were going to reinforce it. Still, hardly a wise decision. Bomb the defenses with catapults, send in the City Raider maces...

Well, I'm sure you know the drill by now. I held off on signing peace with Huayna for one turn, so that I could discover Paper tech and then demand his world map in the treaty:

Also picked up two decent, if outdated, techs in the deal. With Huayna out of the way (he had one island city remaining), I had an even larger stranglehold over this game. Things might have become boring if there was nothing else to do, but keep in mind that this is a Terra map. There's another whole continent out there in the fog just waiting to be discovered. And so, a new era was about to start for my Chinese...