Epic Ten: Stalemated Sun

Here's what my territory looked like in 1000AD:

I have a strong grip on my corner of the continent, and financially things are really looking up right now. Check out that research time for Paper! The western continent has formed a clear Islamic bloc, and relations are beginning to tick up with Mao (although he is unfortunately the AI who cares the least about religion in this entire game). Not to sound like a broken record, but the only place where I was unhappy was with the continued Chinese presence at Tianjin. That city was a blot on my territory, and I continued to kick myself for not seizing the area when I had the chance.

After pausing to grab Paper, I continued up the tech tree and went after Constitution next. I wasn't able to get as much from that as I would have liked, mostly because I had now exceeded the WFYABTA limit with Mao, but I did pick up Gunpowder and a hefty chunk of gold from Caesar. I then parlayed Gunpowder and some of that gold to Huayna in exchange for Banking and Construction tech (yes, I was still missing Construction but I had Constitution!)

I might have been happier about this news if the AIs didn't keep dropping reminders every now and then about just how behind I really was:

OK, the obvious info there is that Mao's completed Taj Mahal (yet ANOTHER wonder) and triggered yet ANOTHER Golden Age. But the really bad news comes from the highlighted city: Mao's just discovered Rifling tech, and all of his medieval units have just been upgraded all at once. The power graph displayed one of those huge leaps upwards, thanks to the insanely cheap upgrades that the AI civs get at this level. Rifling tech in 1184AD! Ouch.

I wonder how things will go for those who choose to pursue early aggression in this Epic; with the copper resource nearby, I'm sure some will try. We'll probably get some spectacular successes, plus a larger number of spectacular failures. (I haven't read any of the posted reports yet as I type this.) I was aiming for the longer, but considerably less risky, strategy of waiting for the end of the tech tree before trying to engage the AI civs. Moments like this made me glad I did!

After researching Education tech (need to get those universities and Oxford in the capital going), I headed again to the top of the tree to pursue Democracy tech, another one that the AIs often neglect. Meanwhile, major developments were taking place on the other continent:

Huayna and Isabella, going at it again. I used my caravels in the area to watch the fighting take place. This was actually some bad news for me; I was hoping to shift into Nationhood civic once I got Rifling, draft some rifles, and go capture Izzy's last three cities myself! They were weakly defended, after all. But Huayna was beating me to the punch, and there wasn't much I could do about it. Unlike Mao, I wasn't really that close to Rifling tech just yet. By 1300AD, Madrid had fallen and the writing was on the wall for the Spanish. Unfortunately another opportunity missed!

In the meantime, I had finished research on Democracy tech, and traded the bugger around:

I also sent Liberalism to Caesar for Economics, what was not insignificant because it opened up Free Market civic. All told, that was another five-for-one deal, plus I picked up a cool 3000g in the process. That would fuel deficit research for quite some time. Overall, not too shabby! So what does my tech status look like now?

Welcome back to Deity! We hope you're enjoying your stay.

Isabella held on a lot longer than I thought she would (the AI is just not that great at capturing cities; hopefully Blake's improved this in the upcoming expansion), but the curtain finally set on the Spanish Empire in 1376AD:

At the very least, I managed to outlive one of the AIs in this game! I had actually been at war with Spain for a while, picking up freebie "mutual military struggle" points with Huayna and Mao (who dogpiled his way into the action as well). Spain had been everyone's "worst enemy", so there were no negatives attached to joining on the bandwagon. However, with Izzy's elimination I was now by far the world's weakest power! I realized I had better do everything I could to cozy up even further to the remaining AIs.

Here's a look at Kyoto after I finished Oxford University:

I more or less did everything possible to maximize commerce while still retaining decent production. I ended up with eight cottages, plus the silk resource (effectively another cottage); the trade routes pile on the equivalent of three more cottages. With library + university + Bureaucracy + Academy + Oxford, this city is getting a 250% boost on science, and nearly 400 beakers/turn overall. That's more than half of my civ-wide total at the moment. I didn't have much land, so I had to make the most of what I did have!

My civ at the 1500AD milestone:

There's been little change in territory over the past 500 years, aside from the cultural expansion of Tianjin. It's now dominating all disputed tiles, and stealing cottages away from Osaka! Mao actually built Versailles in there (10 culture/turn wonder), and along with the Free Speech civic he's running, I'm beginning to feel some real pressure. Have I mentioned I hated that damned city? Tokyo was unhappy because I revolted to Nationhood civic and drafted a round of conscript rifles. That may have been a mistake (it's not like those six rifles would do much of anything if an attack came), but I felt the need to have SOME kind of defense beyond archers in my cities. If you look closely, Mao already has infantry. Heh.

The Demographics from 1500AD deserve special explanation:

Notice that I am actually competitive in the GNP stat! Not leading, of course, but actually in the running as far as research goes. Now I've managed to achieve that by literally sacrificing EVERYTHING else in terms of civ-wide statistics. My military is non-existent, as you can tell from that soldiers number. My manufacturing is PATHETIC! That category ranks the shield output of each civ, and I'm a dismal last place. I've basically built cottages on every possible tile and thrown production to the winds. Population is as high as I can get it, but still far behind the AIs.

This has been the plan all along for my game: sacrifice everything towards maximizing commerce, in order to reach the end of the tech tree as quickly as possible. Then, once research becomes meaningless and everyone has the same advanced units, I can reconfigure my territory for maximum shield output, building enough military units to eventually grind down the rest of the world in the extreme lategame. That's the plan, and I'm pretty confident that I can pull it off. The important thing is surviving long enough to reach the end of the tech tree!

That's why the diplomatic relations in 1500AD were such good news:

With Huayna's move to Free Religion civic, the penalty for practicing a different faith has disappeared and I now enjoy Friendly relations with ALL civs. So long as these relations don't drop, I am completely immune from attack and can neglect my defenses indefinitely. In other words, everything is going about as well as it possibly can at this point.

I discovered the super-expensive Assembly Line tech in 1562AD and used it to pick up Physics from Caesar, plus the outdated Divine Right and Music from Huayna. I was still getting two- and three-for-one deals, but the increased tech costs were making them more and more difficult to pull off. The tech costs were rising, but my civ was staying the same size, and already pretty much maxed out as far as research went. As the Industrial Age progressed, the AIs began to pull further ahead, much to my chagrin.

Images like this were just depressing:

That's just ONE Roman border city. And Rome is the WEAKEST of the three AI powers! Needless to say, this does not bode particularly well for the future.

I managed to get Steel from Huayna in exchange for Communism, but could only get Military Tradition from Caesar for Medicine after that. The tech trades were finally disappearing, as the AIs simply outpaced me on the tree, their massive empires continuing to ramp up technological research while I remained stalled right around 1000 beakers/turn. Mao was so far ahead by this point that I couldn't see his research options. And Tianjin continued to steal MORE tiles from my cities!

Kagoshima was always a weak city to begin with, and now it's starving because it's lost the battle to retain its game tile. The lost health is hurting my other cities as well. Tianjin's culture proved to be so strong that I had to put cathedrals in Kyoto, plus the Hermitage in Osaka, just to avoid losing more ground. Good lord, what a pain in the ass that city turned out to be! And of course it was stacked with just DOZENS of Chinese units, so there was zero chance of attacking it. Would you believe that Mao built the Pentagon in Tianjin as well?! Argh!

And there's more bad news on the relations front; while I'm enjoying Friendly status with all civs, the three AIs apparently all love one another too. Just look what they went and did:

Not only is there zero chance that the AIs will fight each other to help me out, they've gone and signed Defensive Pacts with one another! Mao even has defensive pacts with BOTH AIs, like he needs even one of them. I can probably fight ONE of these AIs to a draw in the endgame, but the odds of facing down multiple Deity AIs with my small amount of territory are slim to none. And unlike in Civ3, where it was relatively easy to manuever around Mutual Protection Pacts, there's not a whole lot I can do in this situation to break those pacts. I just had to hope that they would expire on their own and not be renewed.

That was more or less the situation in my game when I set aside Epic Ten to play Adventure Nineteen. As it turned out, I only had enough time to finish one of the games, and Adventure Nineteen was proving to be a lot more fun than this game, so Epic Ten ended up getting frozen in limbo. This is especially ironic, because I was unable to finish the original Rising Sun game due to a lost savegame file. No such mistake occurred here, but this game will also remain incomplete. Sorry! Things don't always go the way we plan.

There's the final shot of my territory. I only had about 7-8 techs left to go on the tree before I could switch over to the military side of the game; I don't know how things would have turned out, but there wasn't going to be nearly enough real-life time to play them out to a conclusion. I could have survived indefinitely in-game since none of the AIs would ever attack me, so I'll unofficially claim the "small victory" for survival. It's a shadow game anyway, so it's not like the results count...

Final tech comparison:

The game was a lot of fun until I fell too far behind to swing tech trades anymore, at which point in time it started to become a bit of a chore. I was genuinely surprised at how far I managed to get before that happened.

And now for some fun pictures. First, a look inside that blight of a city Tianjin, courtesy of a debugged spy:

Talk about disgusting! This city has 42 base shields, plus a forge/factory/power plant AND Ironworks AND Heroic Epic. Tianjin gets a staggering +300% boost to production when working on military units, for a total of 168 shields/turn. No wonder there was such a big army here! It's also producing 120 culture/turn, thanks to all those Sistine-enhanced specialists. And let's not even get started on the unfairness of Mao running break-even science at 100% research. (The fact that he's on Composites tech means that he's about 15 techs ahead of my civ.)

More fun stuff - the debugged Chinese finances:

A total of 2000 beakers/turn; good, but actually less dominant than I expected. The real fun comes from look at the expenses on the right side of the screen. Mao's got the largest empire in the world, yet his costs are absolutely trivial. 15 gpt for Civic Upkeep? 20 gpt for City Maintenance?! (He's paying about 1.5 gold per city!) FOUR measly gold per turn for inflation?!?!

And look at those insane unit support costs, or rather lack thereof. Mao has 218 units (!) but he only has to pay support on 48 of them. Compare that to my situation in BC years, when I had a piddly 7 units and had to pay support for 3 of them. The situation is so ridiculous that it's laughable. The AI's not even playing the same game as the player here. Now that's kind of the whole point of Deity; you're not supposed to be able to win. But you can only stretch things so far before they begin to break, and I would contend that Deity probably goes beyond what the game balance was supposed to handle. In other words, I think it would be more productive in the future to run difficult variants on Emperor and Immortal rather than tackle the somewhat broken nature of Deity.

But that's my opinion. What do YOU think? Let me know so I can have some feedback in planning future events. That's why I'm posing this question at the end of my report, so it will be fresh in everyone's mind when they post reactions. I did enjoy the parts of this game that I completed, and I'm looking forward to reading how it went in the other reports. I did complete Adventure Nineteen, and there will be a full report on that game. Apologies on the incomplete nature of this report.

In-Game Score 2519