Adventure Nine: Out of the Hole

The title of this game is called "Stagnation", and that's probably a fitting one. The basic premise is that we take over a game at 1AD in which Sirian has seriously screwed things up, and then have to find a way out of the hole. In his signature at CivFanatics, Sirian stated, "Adventure Nine is like inheriting a nightmare SG turn," and that's a pretty good description of how things went. Although the Spain that I took control of had seven cities and plenty of land, Sirian decided to play a "Finally Ready For Regent" variant by building no workers and no tile improvements. Yikes! The only real variant rule was that no city could train a worker until it reached size 6, and since no cities had a starting population over 5, we couldn't even train any workers out of the gate. Not good! For the full rules and game settings, please click here to go to the Realms Beyond main page.

So, as far as this event goes... Well, it's pretty similar to Civ3's Epic 16, The Church of England, in which Sirian messed things up and then asked players to reach a Diplomatic Victory. T-Hawk ran away with that game by building a THREE-turn settler factory (an amazing achievement in Civ3), although he technically did not win the event due to one of the AIs idiotically getting itself killed. In any case, things are a lot different in Civ4 economically than they were in Civ3. With that game, it was as simple as building the max number of cities possible, getting into REPUBLIC government, and then relying on markets and banks to produce enough income to fuel the brokerage train. Here in Civ4, cottages don't really kick in significant income until they mature, and maintenance costs can strangle you if you're not careful. Certainly anyone who played Epic Five had a great experience with that!

Now I'm out of my element in an Ancient Age kill-and-attack game, but this economic recovery scenario was right up my alley. I've spent so much time playing around with Civ4's in-game economy, I practically feel like I could write a treatise on it. For those who find themselves falling into bankruptcy without being sure what to do, perhaps this page will help provide some advice on how to get out of the hole. With no further ado, let's get started!

I open up the save file and take a look... Sirian sure made a mess of things on purpose! Not only are there no tile improvements or workers, but there's not a single granary across Spain either. For an Expansionist civ with cheap granaries, that's practically a crime. Granaries are not *quite* as important in Civ4 as they were in Civ3 - but they aren't far from it. Madrid drops its stupid production into a Jewish monastery and swaps to granary, while going to max food in the process. Barcelona (same), Seville (same), Cordoba (same), Toldeo, Santiago, Salamanca... guess that's all of them! Here's a picture of my city list:

Does it look like I made granaries a priority? Notice also how I was running high food in almost every city. +3 food in Madrid, +4 in Barcelona and Cordoba, +6 in Seville. I needed to get to the magic size six threshold as soon as possible so I could start on some workers!

That took care of the cities. Next I looked at my finances and saw that I was two units over the max amount of support, so I disbanded two of the backline warriors. Useless guys were only eating up extra cash. Inheriting things in the middle of the game also meant that I lacked map information, so I sent out an archer west, a warrior southwest, and a warrior east to poke around and bring me back some more intel. Let it not be said that I am "No-Scouting Sulla!" In terms of research, I realized that Sirian had left us with a GLARING gap on the tree: no Mining tech! (and therefore no Bronze Working either) A pretty situation we're in here indeed. Now the golden tech to get here would be Alphabet, to enable tech trading, but... the initial bankroll is only 109 gold, and current finances are break-even at 0% research. There's simply not enough money to get to Alphabet before the entire ecnomomy crashes and burns. Maybe someone will find a way to get to that tech and trade for Mining/Bronze Working, but that seemed like a risky path to me. I therefore decided to go whole hog on Mining tech first (100% research) and see how far I could get on Bronze Working before running out of funds. I absolutely CANNOT go any further into the game while lacking such basic worker techs. At the very least, I'm going to need to hook up the gold resource in my territory for the happiness!

Diplomatically, I looked things over and thought about who to side with. Saladin and Hatshepsut appeared to be the big dogs on the block, each with their own religions and strong power bases. Since they both hated each other, it was going to have to be one or the other. I made the fateful decision to side with Saladin on this first turn, and to make friends with him and Elizabeth through our shared Jewish faith. For the moment I wasn't sure how long that would last, but it seemed a good initial plan.

As far as the last part of my plan... we started with a great number of excess archers, and with a barb city defended only by warriors on the eastern border. I decided to put them to good use, and to get some extra cash from razing that city!

I pulled archers from Barcelona, Cordoba, and Santiago to go attack Sarmatian. Yes, it had walls, but warriors shouldn't be able to hold against archers in superior numbers. And there was a worker there to capture too! I was fiendishly pleased with my own cleverness here.

And after all that, the first turn was over.

Mining discovered in 50BC and I went on to Bronze Working; I did not have enough money to finish the tech, but I could make it about halfway. After that... umm, let's hope I get some cash from razing that barb city, shall we? Unfortunately, on the next turn in 75BC an archer appeared in Sarmatian. Drat! But perhaps the situation would improve by the time I got my other archers over there. Meanwhile, Seville reached size 6 before any other city and was able to start my first worker in 75AD:

For a city with absolutely no tile improvements, 6 turns is awfully fast for a worker build. The clams resource, the ONLY one connected in the entire Spanish Empire, was a major boost here. Since it had so much surplus food, I would have Seville build quite a few workers for my civ and help out its more food-poor neighbors (Toledo and Salamanaca).

My attention now turned back to the struggle against the barb city of Sarmatian. Obviously I could never attack that city so long as the barb archer stayed within its walls, but in 100AD the archer attacked OUT of the city against one of my own archers! Unfortunately I lost that coin flip battle, but another archer of mine was on the spot to wipe out the redlined barb unit. Once again there were only warriors in Sarmatian! Then another barb archer popped up inside the city in 175BC; since I was sitting on all the forest tiles with my units, I have to think this one was whipped. My plan certainly appeared to be a failure once again, but I came up with this idea:

I moved my warrior off the forest terrain and onto the grasslands, baiting the AI archer to attack out of the city and expose it to attack from my archers. And it worked! The barbs took the bait, with my warrior gloriously dying for the cause. Now it's 4 archers against 2 warriors in a city behind walls. I expect an archer or two to die, but this is Prince difficulty, where I get a pretty nice boost against barbs. Right?

Argh, getting some bad rolls here...

What do you mean my archer loses at 75% odds against the last redlined warrior?!

One warrior with 0.2 health remaining?! ARRGGGHH!

And the barb archer moved back into the city on the next turn. So much for the best laid plans... (See, this is why I don't gamble on early attacks often. They are apt to fail as often as they succeed!) I think my plan was sound, but it just came up a little short on the combat luck. Oh well. The final chapter in this sad saga was written a couple turns later, when Egypt captured the city:

So Hatty got the city? I'll remember that... Anyway, as you can probably see from looking at the research bar at the top of the screen, I have now bottomed out my economy and sit at 0 gold with 0% research. Not good. In fact, I had to cripple Santiago's growth by working two coastal tiles (sans lighthouse) just to avoid a strike. (You can see that at the top of the picture if you look carefully.) Still, help was on the horizon as Seville produced its first worker in 225AD and immediately began another one. 225AD is in fact the fastest possible that you can produce a worker, unless someone finds some way that I've overlooked. More workers continued to pop up all over my territory over the following turns. I knew they would turn the tide eventually, but for the moment things were moving so slowly, so slowly!

Saladin, on the other hand, had workers and more to spare:

Flashing three workers around in my territory? Is he trying to taunt me or something? In reality, they were simply building a road up to the barb city that Saladin had captured up in the north (and THAT would be a blight on my map for ages to come). Of course, in this particular case Friend Saladin was nice enough to lay down some free roads for me. I'll take it! Notice that my own worker began by connecting the rice resource rather than building cottages. I followed that pattern everywhere across my territory. Whatever anyone else might say, I think that connecting resources is always a higher initial priority than building cottages. Whenever I've seen the opposite order followed, I haven't seen good results. (Not to be mean, but Sirian's Adventure Four report does come to mind here. )

A word here is in order about how I set up my cities. Madrid had a very good location, with pigs and gold (and copper too, as I found out a bit later). It could be used for either commerce or shields with good effect, and I decided to have it lean towards commerce by building quite a lot of cottages there, while still retaining good production when needed from the hill tiles. (I've always had the most success in Civ4 when the capital focuses on commerce and the second city on shields, in large part because it seems better to have the Bureaucracy boost apply to commerce rather than production. Of course, you can't control the starting terrain, so that pattern won't always work out, but I try to follow it where possible.) Barcelona had an odd mixture of terrain, and I ended up turning it into a hybrid city of sorts, with a mixture of food, shields, and commerce without being great at any one of the three. That probably was non-optimal, but I never really got a strong feeling for that city. Seville was a coastal city with a good amount of food; it went heavy on both commerce and (at times) specialists. It had some hill tiles, but I chose not to focus on production there. Cordoba had corn and pigs, so I went the Great Person route there early on, although later I would add more cottages as the jungle was cut down. Toledo was buried in jungle, and I would cut those tiles down and replace them with cottages, although I saved all the forest tiles for future lumbermills. I actually got a lot of military from Toledo too by using the hill tiles when it couldn't grow any further. Santiago was a coastal fishing town with no food bonuses; I ended up having to do a lot of irrigation over there (post-Civil Service), so it was always stunted compared to the rest of my core cities. It's no accident that Santiago was the city I chose to cripple when I was on the verge of bankruptcy (it had the least potential). Finally, Salamanca had zippo commerce terrain, so I converted everything to production over there and used it as a military pump. Sorry for such a long and mundane paragraph here, but I hope it will be useful for comparative and instructional purposes.

With my economy still sputtering along at 1 beaker per turn, my scout in the west found a new face not mentioned in the game setup page:

So, Mansa Musa is here too. Is this good or bad? Mansa the tech whore might be useful to trade up to tech parity, but he'll increase the overall AI tech pace with his trading as well. I resolved at least initially to play things cautiously by holding off on any deals with Mansa. He was Saladin's "worst enemy", and I wanted to remain on Sal's good side, at least for the moment.

400AD: Still cranking more workers, up to 4 of them now across my territory. Seville has already built two, and I have it on yet another one (hey, it has to supply workers for three different cities!) I also got a message on this turn that Saladin had founded Taoism. Yikes! Not what you want to hear when you're researching Bronze Working at 0% science! On the plus side, I finished my first cottage in 425AD and could finally stop crippling Santiago's growth while remaining at break-even science. Baby steps, baby steps...

Then in 475AD, the breakthrough: I ask Liz for some money and she gives me 80 gold!

Thank you thank you thank you! We offer up a toast to our English brethren! This gesture shall never be forgotten. We will maintain the goodwill of our English friends until the end of time. Notice that to this point in time I had made basically zero progress on the tech front since my money ran out in 200AD. That's only 11 turns as the dates go, but still a long time to be sitting around doing nothing. With Lizzie's money, I was now back in the game and things began moving again.

Hey, remember all the tech trading we used to do in Civ3? I'm sure our longtime vets do. After years of playing that game, I think I could trade my way out of a paper bag with the AI civs. Due to the peculiar circumstances of this game, where Sirian put the player in a major tech hole, it was the perfect situation for a heavy tech-trading game. Buckle your seatbelts, folks: the brokerage days of yore were back for Adventure Nine.

With the money I got from Elizabeth, I cranked science up again and pushed ahead to Bronze Working, due in 2 turns. One turn into that reseach, I spied a deal waiting to be made with Caesar:

The one truly valuable commodity that Sirian DID give us in this game was Monarchy tech and Hereditary Rule. Maybe I could have gotten more out of the civic by not sending all those archers to their doom outside the barb city, but I intended to get a lot of trade value out of the tech itself! As AI civs picked up Alphabet and tech trading opened up with them, I was able to get some return on that valuable commodity. Caesar was willing to send me Mathematics for Monarchy, and he threw in the nearly-completed Bronze Working as well. By the way, notice how the AI civs do in fact discount the cost of a nearly-completed tech for you (such as Bronze Working here). That's yet another reason why I'm not sold on the binary science strategy that Blake favors (this is something we were discussing in our succession game together). It's very "gamey", if you know what I mean, and the savings are mere pennies - plus the AI will discount partially completed techs for you in trades! Needless to say, it's not something that you'll see me using (unless I'm actually bankrupt, as in this game, and I'm forced into it).

With Bronze Working in hand, I swapped over to Slavery and now began researching Alphabet at the best available rate - which wasn't much. As of 500AD, I was still in GNP hell, but with seven workers on hand, the situation was beginning to look up. Bronze Working even revealed that I had two coppers on hand, nice! (Maybe someone will do some early warfare with those coppers, but it was not in the cards for me here.)

I continue poring over the diplomatic screens every turn, Civ3-style. Qin had a good opportunity for me on the very next turn:

160g for Polytheism tech? Yes sir, I'll take that! Thank you for doing business with us, my Chinese friend. Come back again, y'hear? (Ignore the Monotheism research, I changed it to Alphabet right away). Of course the next turn I got word that everyone except Liz already had Alphabet tech:

Uh oh. This screenshot was snapped in 540AD. Better get to work...

I decided that I might as well continue research into Alphabet, since I had already put some significant beakers into it and would need the tech to research the techs behind it. I knew that the AIs were still lacking some of those techs, since the leaders had only just gotten Alphabet (yes, the AIs ignored it until AD years once again. That's the sort of thing that Warlords SHOULD have been addressing, the extreme predictability of the AI, but naturally it does nothing of the sort. They sure could have used some more of my input on the expansion!) Elizabeth would in fact get Alphabet before me, in 600AD, but that opened up a Monarchy trade with her as well:

We basically exchanged Monarchy and Iron Working, and Alphabet got thrown in almost for free since I had most of the beakers. Perhaps Alphabet was not the best tech to research in that situation, but I don't feel as though it came off as a waste. I could now trade with anyone for techs, and that was the most important thing, because I couldn't have know that the AIs would be heading down that path themselves.

After obtaining Alphabet, I debated whether to go for Literature or not, but since that tech was so cheap I thought I wouldn't get enough trade value from it. I decided to strike out for Construction instead, which none of the AIs had. And it's never a bad idea to be building catapults either, "just in case". I begged Saladin for his 40g, and with our huge bonus from shared religion he gave it to me as well. All hail our Jewish brethren! We will honor our Arabian friends in the days to come as well. That put me up to a sustainable 30% research (600AD). Not much, but the economic improvement is starting to show, finally.

Saladin adopts Bureaucracy in 680AD. Not what I want to hear! As libraries began to complete across my territory, however, I was able to turn some of my excess population into scientist specialists, which helped out a lot. Since I was under a bit of a happiness crunch (gold was the only happiness resource in the starting territory), there was nothing better to do with the extra people anyway. I bummed another 40g off Saladin in 760AD, and then traded my excess copper to him for stone and 4gpt. Every little bit helps, and Friend Saladin is doing his part very nicely.

Construction completes in 840AD; Saladin was the only other civ with the tech. Unfortunately it wasn't worth as much as I'd hoped, but still... Constuction to Mansa Musa for Literature + 80g (Hatty had actually become Sal's "worst enemy" and so I could trade at no penalty here). Construction + 80g to Elizabeth for Code of Laws. I guess that 80 gold was "easy come, easy go"! Next up was Drama, another tech that none of the AI civs possessed.

Then on the following turn, the big breakthrough: backwards Caesar was willing to part with uber-expensive Feudalism tech!

And yes, those are the two techs I just picked up in trades on the preceding turn. Reminiscent of Civ3, anyone? Caesar even threw in 70g in the process, what a nice guy. I then turned around and traded Literature to someone (didn't record who) for Monotheism. So yes, that is four techs for the price of one, and Feudalism almost twice as expensive as Construction. I think I remember the drill quite nicely. I make the rare swap to Vassalage (because I still don't have Civil Service yet, remember?) so that my units can come out with 6XP. It's also nice to be Spiritual!

I had hoped to be able to trade Feudalism to Qin for some goodies, but he got it on the interturn after I traded with Caesar. Oh well. After discovering Drama a couple turns later, I was able to swing this deal with him:

Currency, yay! Finally! I kept trying to get the tech in trades earlier, only to be denied. Given the marketplaces + trade route benefits of this tech, I really probably should have researched it earlier, but oh well. I did get it in the end. Currency jumped my income up significantly with an extra trade route in every city. Then I sent Drama over to Liz for Horseback Riding, which would NOT be a useless tech in this game. I'm going to need it for Conquistadors, right? Cavalry could be a very real possibility against Prince AIs too. Research into Civil Service next.

By this point (980AD), I had recovered up to the point where I could now run 60% science. No joke! My cause was further helped by running numerous Scientist specialists, as mentioned earlier. Here's an example of that in progress at Cordoba:

The city has pigs and corn, so I may as well get some use out of it, right? Cottages on the rivers and a whole lot of specialists supplied by the extra food. (As you might guess, I was in Caste System at the moment, and swapping back and forth between that and Slavery as needed. Man, I love being Spiritual in this game.) All those Great Scientists were bound to produce something else too:

Hello Mr. Great Scientist. You say you want to tech me the secrets of Philosophy? That sounds like a good idea. I adopted the odd combo of Vassalage/Pacifism, which I bet you won't see too often! In terms of trading, Philosophy was a tech that only Saladin had! On the following turn, it was once again brokerage time with Lizzie:

So I picked up two more techs, and then I was able to send Philosophy to Mansa for Music as well. This trading set off the "We fear you are becoming too advanced" limit with Qin (and with good cause!), but my good friends of Saladin and Liz were still willing to deal with me. And so in 1050AD I was able to send Music along with something else (can't remember) to Saladin for Machinery. I snapped this picture of the tech screen at that date:

Aside from Saladin's slight lead, I reached complete tech parity with the AI civs in 1050AD. To really appreciate that fact, you have to look back at the last shot of the tech screen, which I took in 540AD. In a mere 30 turns starting in 500AD, I discovered 4 techs (one of them with a Great Scientist) and traded for 14 of them. Folks, with tech-whoring enabled, it really is that easy. After playing this game, I'm more convinced than ever that the limits placed on tech trading in Civ4 are a good idea. I've been down that path before, and I know where the gameplay ends up, a la Civ3. The human, if he knows what he's doing, inevitably pulls thousands of free beakers out of the ether through manipulating AI trades. Then the only way to make the game competitive is to increase the AI's advantages FURTHER, creating the Civ3 gameplay where the AI at high difficulties gets ungodly bonuses while remaining absolutely clueless as to HOW to use them. Blah. Thankfully Civ4 puts a stop to the trading after a certain point, although you can still circumvent things by trading with civs with which you have good relations. It's hardly an elegant solution, but it IS a useful kludge. More tech trading in the game would be very bad though.

So now I was out of the economic hole. What to do next? Well as usual, I had a plan up my sleeves...