Epic Eleven: Libraries and Temples

Since this is the first game that I've sponsored which I also played to a complete finish, the "Comments from the Sponsor" will simply be included in the text of the main report. I hope that makes sense; it would be too confusing for me to separate the two! Let me therefore first talk about the scenario behind the game and how it was set up. For the full details about Epic Eleven, click here.

Epic Eleven was a reprise of the game by the same name that Sirian created during our Civ3 days. The goal in that game had been to score points by building various cultural objects, while also playing the role of global policeman and trying to keep as many civs alive as possible. I thought that the original scenario had a lot of promise in terms of translating to Civ4, so my simple goal was to adapt the scoring system to fit the changed circumstances of Civ4. Since there is only one type of Cultural victory in Civ4 (as opposed to the 20k/100k distinction in Civ3), this was actually easier than Sirian's original task.

I kept the 25 points for cultural victory completely intact, as well the decision to disable all other victory conditions. Similarly, the 4 points for each rival civilization still alive at game's end was left untouched (although I would have to make other alterations elsewhere to further this end; see below). In terms of wonders, I simply changed them to fit ones appropriate to Civ4. The Great Lighthouse is designed to be impossible to get (just as the Colossus was in the Civ3 game) because the player's start is inland, nowhere near the sea coast. The Parthenon is this game's "high risk, high reward" scoring item; it's worth a ton of points and highly valuable, but will definitely slow down expansion and could possibly be lost to an early AI. The others are all buildable but will require some effort on the part of the player, particularly ones that the human player rarely bothers to build (Chichen Itza, Versailles). Eiffel Tower and Hollywood are purely on the list for thematic purposes - all players will hopefully get those two.

I thought the most interesting part of Sirian's original scoring was the points allocated for building certain improvements in each city. It poses a classic question: expand outward for more total cities, or improve the ones you have "upward" for bonus points? Plus, scrambling to get temples/libraries built would add some extra excitement to the early game - much like the population scoring in Epic Three! That seemed like a win/win scenario, so I adapted the scoring to fit Civ4's changed city improvements. It's possible that someone will be able to get really creative with the early temple scoring, especially if they found multiple religions. Being non-Spiritual should keep things within reason though. I'll be looking forward to seeing what everyone comes up with!

Otherwise, it was simple to give points for fastest finishers, although I wonder if I shouldn't have upped those points slightly (?) Oh well. The points for promoting a Navy SEAL to elite status (Combat V) is an adaptation of Sirian's points for promoting American F-15 units to elite (that was the American unique unit in Civ3). If you never looked at the Civ3 game, it probably seemed totally random, but it was not!

That set the scoring. Now the problem with Cultural victories in this game is that the most common way to get them is build a bunch of cottages, then run the culture slider at 100% for the final 50-100 turns of the game after building a bunch of cathedrals. Talk about boring! While there's definitely some skill involved in that, it's not the kind of gameplay that I wanted to create. The sad thing is that Civ4's cultural victory is actually very elegant and much more complex than people give it credit for; you can accumulate culture through either food (artists/Great Artists), shields (city improvements/wonders), OR commerce (culture slider). It's unfortunate that the third method dominates in the vast majority of cultural games, but it does NOT have to do so, as we demonstrated in our RB19 succession game. Thus the first variant rule: no running the cultural slider above 20%. I wanted to encourage players to think about alternate ways of generating culture in this game, instead of just following the same tired old path. As I'll demonstrate in this report, with the right gameplan and some luck, you can win a Cultural victory just as fast without using the cultural slider at all!

The other two restrictions were designed to deal with changes between Civ3 and Civ4. In Civ3, the AI was terrible at defending itself. Add that to the AI's insane propensity to declare war on anyone, regardless of the strategic situation, and you had civs killing one another all the time. I wouldn't want to go back to that anarchy, but it's true that AI civs were wiped out MUCH more often in Civ3 than in Civ4. Thus I had to put some elements in place to encourage the AIs to kill each other in this game, to make that first scoring item meaningful. Gifting units to AIs under attack was obviously a no-no, as was negotiating peace treaties between warring third parties (both impossible in Civ3). Turning on Aggressive AIs was also a no-brainer. I also needed the game to be on Epic speed - to give the AI civs more time to kill each other! Yes, T-Hawk, there WAS a reason for doing this (my test games showed the AI performed much more poorly in terms of attacking one another on Normal speed). Whether it was worth it in the end is certainly debatable, of course.

But wait, I went much further than that. I ran a bunch of test games in the debugger on all different maps that showed that random AIs tended to stay peaceful much too often. But in one specific game, Temujin and Montezuma teamed up and managed to kill 7 different AIs between them by 1950AD! I tried my best to reproduce that game, and found that I had the best results when the most aggressive civs were present, and they had strong starting positions. Thus it's no accident that Alex, Montzeuma, and Khan are all present in this game; I selected them myself. (You can actually see this just by looking at the list on the F4 advisor; the civs are listed by player spot, and they are of course the top three because I hand-selected them!) Secondly, I made sure to edit the map to give them all strong starts. Alex has corn, horses, copper, ivory, spices, and six floodplains tiles (!) while Temujin begins with pigs, cows, horses, copper, two ivory, and two more floodplains.

And even that wasn't enough, so I actually DOWNGRADED the starts of most of the other AIs. This is most obvious if you look at Isabella's start: she has gems and a plains silk tile, with ZERO food bonus tiles. That should be a dead giveaway there, since the map generator always provides each civ with at least one food bonus. Caesar and Frederick also have terrible, terrible starting positions choked off by jungle. I crippled Saladin as well by removing all but one of the resources at his start, leaving a single plains wheat. In addition to stripping these civs of their bonus resources, I also added tons of plains tiles around their starts. The AI just does not handle plains tiles well, so this was yet another way to limit their growth. Try looking at the Spanish and Arabian starts, and you'll see nothing but plains tiles. That was not the way the map looked originally, let me tell you.

To summarize: this is NOT a fair contest. The most aggressive civs in the game have been pumped up with fabulous starts, while the weaker ones have been crippled. I'm literally throwing the lambs to the wolves here! I had very favorable results in the debug tests that I ran on this particular map after editing it (AI playing against AI), so I expect some fireworks in the games reported. Players are going to have their work cut out for them in keeping all these civs alive until game's end!

Whew, enough with the game's background and on to my actual report. The one starting location that I didn't change turned out to be the player's! It was just what I was looking for: located in the middle of the continent, with a "good" start that was short of fantastic. There was also no stone or marble nearby, which was another thing I wanted. Neither is completely out of the question, but will probably involve going to war with someone. Anyway, here's my start:

I founded on the starting tile; there didn't seem to be any possible motive for moving. First build was a worker for max growth, research into Animal Husbandry for the same. I thought about whether to pursue an early religion before the game started, and decided not to do so. It seemed better to go for expansion early on, and plan on picking up the later ones with relative ease. Using the Oracle for Code of Laws (and slingshoting the resulting Prophet into Theology) is an especially attractive plan for an Organized civ, and doubly so for an Industrious/Organized one like FDR! I should also mention that I had the advantage of knowing that Isabella was in the game, and would assuredly found Buddhism. That's why this is a shadow game and not eligible for the real scoring.

I had a general idea of what the map looked like, but nothing specific. I actually did the setup about three weeks before playing this game, deliberately trying to forget as much as possible before playing! But I still knew the rough overall features, like the fact that Saladin was *VERY* close by to the south. My exploring warrior poked around down there first (I knew the north had mostly jungle), leading to my first decision of the game:

I took a screenshot here both because it showed Izzy grabbing Buddhism (predictable) and my dilemma over where to settle. The first settler is definitely going here, and on Prince difficulty, I can easily win the spot from Saladin. But which specific tile to choose? If I found one south of the gold tile on the river, I give up the cows. If I found one southwest of the gold tile, I get the cows but give up two floodplains. What a rough choice! I wish I could say that I customized this, but it was just a natural feature the map threw out. After staring at the screen for about five minutes, I decided to give up the cows and found one south of the gold tile. It was a tough choice, but I thought that having two floodplains would be the better long-term choice than one cattle, if not optimal in the short run. I'll be interested to see what others do, or what will happen when Saladin is allowed to take this very juicy spot.

So I build the first worker, and have him connect first the corn, then the cows. Research went into Animal Husbandry first, followed by Mining (got to have something else for the worker to do next!), then Mysticism so I could start Stonehenge. Washington grew rapidly to size 3, then popped out a settler, who went to the site I identified above. New York was founded in 2320BC:

My warrior is on his way back to guard the capital, having survived an attack from a barb animal in the wilderness. (And let me say, it was nice to have a Prince bonus against barbs for a change!) I suppose I should say a few words about Stonehenge: to me, it was a complete no-brainer to build it. As a non-Creative civ with no early religion, those free border pops would definitely come in handy, and avoid the need to waste time on obelisk builds. But more importantly, I wanted to build Stonehenge for the culture in the capital city. The wonder is worth 8 culture/turn, which will double very quickly to 16/turn. (Wonders and city improvements double after either 1000 years or 100 turns; I can't remember which one.) That 16 culture/turn will later by multiplied many times over by cathedrals for a humongous total payoff. And it can be built for a measly 180 shields, with a +50% boost for being Industrious! The Oracle is the same deal. For an Industrious civ, pursuing a Cultural victory, both of those wonders provide a tremendous value. I had to build them both!

Washington could reach 10 shields/turn while building Stonehenge (boosted to 15/turn for being Industrious), and so the wonder was rapidly completed. Finished just after 2000BC:

Stonehenge also had the nice effect of allowing Washington to grow to its happy limit at size 5, where I could produce settlers rapidly. You can see me starting another one above. I already had the spot picked out; in the east, there was a great location with cows, rice, and lots of hill tiles. I figured that I could irrigate the grassland tiles and turn that into a pure production city, able to build lots of wonders along with the capital. Sure enough, Boston was founded shortly after 1500BC. And there you would have my big three cultural cities, Washington/New York/Boston.

I got a message saying that the Pyramids had been completed at the incredibly early date of 985BC, wow! That turned out to be Montezuma, who had started with stone at his capital. I guess he spent most of the early game working on that wonder, which ultimately hurt the Aztecs in the long run because they didn't grab very much land... Anyway, I had no plans to build the Pyramids, but it was still surprising to see them fall so early. On the next turn (970BC), I founded my fourth city and snapped an overview of my civ:

After the first three cities, I had a bit of a difficult choice as far as where to expand next. To the west was desert, useless, and I didn't want to antagonize Alex with border tensions either. To the north was jungle, and it didn't seem wise to expand there until after I had Iron Working to cut it down. The east might have promise, but I didn't know what was over there yet! For once my usually good reconnaissance had failed; tied up on building wonders or settlers, I had failed to train more than a skeleton military. Rather than send a settler out into the unknown, I decided to grab the last available good land on the border with Saladin. He founded that city to the west literally two turns before I got to the Philadelphia site; I thought above moving, but decided that I was playing a cultural game, and there was no way that a weak civ like Arabia was going to push me around! With cows and one floodplains tile, Philadelphia would be a decent, if not spectacular, location for me.

Elsewhere, I'm working on infrastructure in my new cities, and the Oracle in the capital. Code of Laws was the obvious play from the wonder, and I took it:

If the goal of the game were Domination, I'd have taken Metal Casting here for those cheap forges... but it wasn't, so the religion was the easy choice. It founded in New York, on the Arabian border - a nice stroke of luck. I had half a mind to delay the Oracle and try to research Code of Laws naturally first, then grab Philosophy and Taoism with the free tech, but that seemed 1) too risky and 2) it would be stupid to pass up 30 turns of the Oracle's culture. Thus the safe, obvious choice.

Confucianism came with a free missionary, and I did the smart thing with him:

Send the missionary to convert my nearest psycho neighbor, of course! This was supposed to be a peaceful builder game, which meant that I would be militarily rather weak for long stretches. It was therefore imperative that I get on the good side of my neighbors, so that I could spend the middle ages building wonders and not swordsmen. Alex was definitely the biggest danger, so he got the first missionary. And with the Confucian holy city right on Saladin's border, I knew that the religion would spread to him as well, giving me another solid ally. A little bit later, the Confucian bug bit Peter as well (my neighbor to the east), providing even more security. It's always a good feeling when the civs most able to hurt you are buddies in the same shared faith!

I didn't snap a lot of pictures over the following years, simply because not a lot was happening. I concentrated on building libraries and temples wherever possible, mindful of the upcoming 250AD scoring date. I addded one more city (Atlanta) in the southeast around 500BC, which I'll say more about in a minute. But that was it - five cities for now. All of the land around me was pretty well filled, so I concentrated on building upwards rather than outwards. This was certainly a far cry from my last opening in Adventure Nineteen - I could only hope it would end as well!

I did get announcements from time to time: the Parthenon was finished in 445BC (ouch if anyone goes for that wonder and fails!) and the Great Lighthouse in 250BC. I will seriously eat my hat if anyone gets the Great Lighthouse in this game! Those 13 points are supposed to be totally impossible. Anyway, time passed and the Stonehenge/Oracle combo produced its usual Great Prophet, which I used to found another religion:

Yes, another predictable play but still effective. Philadelphia became the Christian holy city; not one of my three big cities, but not too bad. I stuck with Confucianism for the diplomatic boost with my neighbors. On the positive side, with two religions I would now have the chance to add more temples for the first scoring mark.

Temujin demanded Alphabet from me right after I researched it in 205BC. Since it was still a monopoly, I turned him down. That more or less cost me any chance of having Mongolia as an ally, but that seemed unlikely anyway. Temujin had adopted Judaism, so there was a natural conflict there. I was slowly forming alliances with a group of civs: Greece, Arabia, Russia, and Rome. Spain hated my guts (religious differences) and the other civs were still too far away at this point to matter much either way.

After completing the cheap, early religious buildings, I had Boston start on its first wonder:

Boston might not be too impressive just yet, but there's the potential for a LOT of shields here. Although Chichen Itza would take a long time to complete, it was worth 2 points in the overall scoring, so I figured it would be worth it. And if you want to get the wonders, better to start early, right? It was a shame that I didn't have stone! Boston was way behind Washington and New York in terms of culture at this point; my hope was to offset that over time by adding lots of wonders here, thanks to the strong production. My research would end up being slightly weaker than usual in this game, because many of my best cities emphasized production rather than the usual commerce. Just think of how many beakers this city could produce if I went the cottage route rather than the shield one!

I had tons of Calendar resources at the start (spices, silks, incense, and dyes) so I swung a deal for Calendar with Frederick right before the AD crossover. All my cities had expanded borders, so I didn't need Stonehenge anymore. I then snapped a picture of my civ at the milestone date:

Most of my civ is probably pretty self-explanatory, although I'll note how badly I've crowded Saladin overall. I've also got four other civs united in my Confucian brotherhood, excellent! What I really want to talk about here, however, is Atlanta's location. I did not intend to put the city where it ended up. The plan was to place it one tile southwest of Yekaterinburg's location, grabbing cows, iron, a floodplains tile, and a bunch of grasslands. However, the Russians beat me to the spot by about four turns, which had me really bummed out. I had no choice but to send the settler into the southern wilderness, where there was a sheep tile and I could still claim the one floodplains. I knew I should have build the settler sooner!

Well, that "mistake" was probably the best thing to happen to me all game! It wasn't until I founded Atlanta that I saw the marble resource nearby in Arabian territory. That had been a black tile on my map - I had no idea there was a resource there! I saw right away that if I could win the cultural battle with Damascus, I would be able to claim marble for my civ, and that was absolutely HUGE! Thus Atlanta's early builds would be library, Confucian temple, and theatre - only after that did I even stop to build a granary. In time, I would indeed claim the marble, a major victory for my civ. What a coup!

I was now out of room to expand, still stuck with five cities. But that wasn't going to be enough to win the game; at a bare minimum, I'll need nine cities, so that I can build a cathedral of each type in each of my three legendary cities. I was loathe to attack any of my Confucian allies, especially Alex and Peter (who were very powerful). But there was another civ right on my borders who was extremely weak, and already hated my guts...

Hello, Izzy. I love it when the game makes things easy, don't you?

I took Seville with ease on the first turn, my City Raider swords getting very good odds against Isabella's unpromoted archers. The city fit perfectly with my dotmap, so I kept it. Even better, I now had access to Buddhism, a third religion to spread around for culture! Not in time to build any Buddhism temples, of course, but this would be a factor in adding later cathedrals. I also sniped the worker you see above, and prepared to move on the remaining Spanish cities. I wasn't going to eliminate Isabella, but I did want to knock her down a few pegs and gain some more territory for my own Americans.

The following turn (245AD) was extremely busy in terms of annoucements. I cut and pasted them together in the screenshot below:

I finished Chichen Itza in Boston, my first wonder there, and picked up the 2 scenario points. Secondly, I also completed research on Music first and popped the free Great Artist on the tree. Finally, the bad news: Hatshepsut has already completed the Great Library! That was a bad break; I had been planning to build it in Washington after the Spanish war had ended. You usually don't see it built that early period, much less on Prince! So that was a setback, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. It was more important in the long run to build those swords at the capital and to gain additional territory than to add another wonder. I would have plenty more of those to add later.

Now, what to do with the free Great Artist? Obviously I want to merge him into one of my cities as a super-specialist, but which one? Boston would seem the obvious choice; it has the least culture and the least culture per turn. But I spent some time thinking about it, and decided that New York would be the better option:

Why New York? In short, because Boston had much greater shield potential than New York did. See, when it comes to planning cultural victories, the important number is not the total cultural output, but the BASE culture per turn. Washington and Boston both have a ton of shields, and can build wonders to add to that base culture/turn number. New York is a nice commerce city, but it is shield-poor. If I were to turn up the cultural slider to 100% at the end of the game that might not matter, but for this game it definitely does. I don't plan on building any wonders in New York (adding cathedrals will be hard enough!), so I have to do everything possible to increase that base culture/turn number in New York through other means. The most obvious of these is through merging in Great Artists as super-specialists. Thus while New York will only be boosted further ahead of Boston for now, in the long run Boston will increasingly close the gap. As to whether or not all this planning would work out correctly, you'll just have to read the rest of the report to find out.

That brings us to 260AD and the first scoring benchmark. Since everyone should have a savefile from this date and the 1502AD turn, I plan to run some cultural comparisons on these specific turns and see what comes out of them. Here are my three cities, sorted by culture:

No surprises here; Washington is way out in front thanks the Stonehenge/Oracle combo, and the Great Artist has boosted New York significantly as well. Boston has a lot of catching up to do, but it's just added Chichen Itza and is in good shape for cultural growth. I look forward to seeing how this compares to others at the same date.

Now, as far as the actual scoring goes:

I have a library and a Confucian temple in every city, plus two more Christian temples in the two cities with that religion. This score me 12 points for this date. I hope that's good! We'll have to find out. I hope that the scores won't be TOO much higher than this, however; if someone gets 20+ points, then I'll know that I messed up the scoring. That seems kind of unlikely (you'd have to have libraries in 7-8 cities, then a dozen temples) but I try not to underestimate what this community can accomplish.

Next up: adding universities and cathedrals before the 1500AD date.