Epic Seventeen: Unexpected War

The first war had been successful, if far from optimal. Now I was moving beyond the "early aggression" phase of the game, and into the "consolidation and economic recovery" phase - one that plays much more to my strengths! I hoped to make up potential lost ground here in the race towards Domination. Here was the map situation immediately following Kublai's removal:

I mentioned on the last page that I had six cities at this point. Whoops! Well apparently I actually had seven of them, as I had just founded Nuremburg in the southwest to grab marble and (eventually) furs. As you might guess from the builds, I'm on a major Rathaus kick right now, planning to whip them imminently at both Prague and Vienna. Karakorum's build choice is also interesting; since it didn't have a whole lot of commerce potential, I chose to make it a shield-heavy city as well. I'm building the Hindu monastery because I intend to make Karakorum my missionary training center, supplying religion (and border expansions) to all of my new cities. This would actually work out rather well. With a large (and growing) empire, and not being Organized, I opted to stay away from Organized Religion to keep costs down.

The good news is that even though it's taken me longer than expected to remove Khan, there's still a ton of land up for grabs. The whole north and that narrow strip of land to the south remains unsettled, plus there's even room to put additional cities to the east before the Romans snap up that ground. Aachen is almost done another settler, and here - on Epic speed, with a production-heavy capital - the Imperialistic trait actually did me a fair amount of good. With whipped Rathauses, I was confident that I could settle a very large number of cities without going broke. The key goal now was to city-spam, Civ3 style, before all the land was taken.

My next city was a true space-filler:

I'd say that plugs the gap between Vienna and Turfan, wouldn't you? Augsberg had pretty dismal starting terrain, almost entirely jungle, yet so much potential long-term. The rice supplied plenty of food, and I later proceeded to chop down all those jungles and replace them with cottages. Along with the silk and dyes, it was a nice commerce city, not to mention securing me a source of horses!

Up north, you can see the barb cities of Cimmerian and (in the corner) Angle. There were actually two more barb cities, one in the far southeast, and another in the extreme northwest. For once, I was happy to see the barbs popping up, as they delayed the AIs from settling in those regions for many years on end. Even better, I had a few City Raider III swords left over from the Mongolian campaign, which meant...

Easy pickings.

However, I actually made a minor strategic mistake here. I should have sent my swords against the barb city in the southeast first, as that was the one that the AI civs had the best chance to capture. I soon realized this, and rather than moving west to Cimmerian, I sent my swords south next. But there were no roads in this frontier region as yet, so by the time I arrived down there, the Aztecs had grabbed the barb city I wanted. Probably not a huge deal, but it was an error I could have avoided.

Time to head back to the northern jungles again, and finish off the job:

Angle and Cimmerian actually fit nicely with my dotmap, for a change. I love it when that happens by accident!

Notice that my science rate was all the way down at 30%, although the beaker count remained decent at about 40/turn. I suppose that's what you get for having 10 widely spaced cities before the AD years! For a normal civ, that would pretty much put an end to expansion for a while, until the new cities could get their infrastructure up and running. Now here's where my choice of the Holy Roman Empire began to shine: Rathauses to the rescue!

We've long known that whipping courthouses is pretty much the single most effective thing that you can do in this game to recover from economic peril (well, that and building cottages, of course!) Rathuses are like courthouses on steroids. With pigs and corn, I could easily grow Beshbalik into unhappiness, and then whip four unlucky souls to pop out one of my unique buildings. That dropped the costs by 75%, down to less than three gold/turn. So long as a rathaus was the second build in each city (after a granary), I could continue to expand almost indefinitely.

Oh, and note that Kublai left me a Great General in this city too. Nice!

In time, the Oracle presented me with a Great Prophet for my shrine, as expected. Since I was already spreding Hinduism around to my cities in order to expand borders, I got a rather nice boost of about 10 gold/turn... fueling further expansion, naturally. I've always liked that synergy: using religion for border expansion (thus skipping the need for obelisks), which turns a profit from the monk economy, which feeds back into more cities. A simple system, but very effective.

The new and improved map in 250AD:

In addition to those barb cities, I've also managed to settle Mainz in the east, in a reach location, and Ulm, another space-filler in some rather poor land to the southeast. Thanks to my shrine and unique building, I'm running a rather comfortable deficit at 50% science with a full dozen cities. You won't see that too often in Civ4! At Mycenae, in the northwest, I'm waiting for the city to grow to size 2 before capturing it, so that it won't be autorazed. Elsewhere, I'm going very heavy on the infrastructure.

In the span of 40 turns (from my last overview shot), I added 5 more cities, while almost doubling the science output. Didn't I tell you I was good at this sort of thing?

I would have been happy to continue settling the rest of the land around me and teching upwards towards maces/knights. (I was planning on attacking Montezuma sometime around 1000AD, by which time I would have better units and a stronger economy.) However, Alex threw a monkey wrench into my plans with this declaration of war:

Urp! Not what I wanted. I guess that's what I get for being a religious pariah though. Look at that list of names on the right side of the screen: the whole world aside from me (and Monty) is a big fat Jewish love circle. Usually I'm pretty careful with diplomacy in Civ4, but in this game there's wasn't a whole lot I could do. I certainly wasn't about to change religions, plus I was going to have to fight most of these AIs anyway to achieve Domination. So I kind of let things slide besides making some half-hearted Open Borders treaties, and this was the result. Pretty predictable, given Alex's personality. But now I had a very real problem on my hands!

You can kind of see Alex's stack in that shot above; here's a better one to give more detail:

Mainz has a single archer on defense. Does it stand any chance against this stack? No, of course not. At this point, I'm 100% sure that Mainz is a lost cause, and I'm much more concerned about losing Karakorum and Beshbalik behind it. At least settling that reach city out there should buy me some time to organize some real defenses...

I of course whip walls in Mainz immediately, an easy thing to do since I had stone on hand. (There's also marble near the player's start. Some of the peaceful games might have a lot of fun with wonder-building, especially those who take Industrious civs! Philosophical + wonder resources can be a real riot too.) Then I whipped an (unpromoted) archer on the next turn, using the shield overflow. To my surprise, Alex's stack bypassed Mainz and contined moving deeper into my territory. Huh? That was almost Civ3-esque. I wonder if whipping the walls had something to do with it (?) In any case, Mainz was still breathing, for the moment, while Karakorum was now shaping up to the battlefield.

So if I can just get some more... units...


This was NOT part of the gameplan!

I don't know if Caesar was bought into the war by Alex, or if he simply decided to pile on to the cause of his own accord. Needless to say, these were dark days and daring times for my civilization. As if to add insult to injury, Alex somehow pulled off this landing in my back lines:

How did he even do this?! Look, I saw the map in the Worldbuilder before this game started. I know where Alex's civ is located. To reach this spot, his galley had to sail freakin' halfway around the world, through Roman AND Aztec territory. What are the odds?!

I of course whipped an archer in Cimmerian, and since production takes place before combat, I would have two defenders here to meet the attack. The phalanx attacked first (stupidly) and lost to my archer. Then the sword attacked and killed my sword, but was redlined enough that I could promote my (Protective, yay!) archer and finish him off on the next turn. Whew. Crisis in the backlines averted, at least.

Too bad the frontlines are falling to pieces!

Here's the vanguard of Caesar's attack force. Unfortunately there are more Praetorians on the way, though it would be a little while before they could reach me. I've got a couple more archers in Mainz now, and if it were just Prats and axes, I'd have a decent chance to hold the city. Only problem is that he's got three cats along for the ride as well, and once those city walls come down, it's going to be a slaughter.

Of course, I can pour more reinforcements into Mainz... except no, I can't, because my reinforcements are pouring into Karakorum instead, which is ALSO under attack from Alex (arrowed in blue). Fortunately I largely managed to stave that off, as Alex's baffling decision to bypass Mainz gave me the time I needed to train/whip additional archers and axes for defense. But despite avoiding the Greek peril, Mainz will definitely be toast against the Romans. Their army is too big, and I can't stop it.

When the wars broke out, I began moving my old City Raider swords up from the back lines to the front. They weren't exactly properly promoted to fight a defensive war, but anything was better than nothing, right? In defending Mainz, I noticed that the Romans had recently captured Gaul (the city to the south) from the Aztecs - whom Caesar had fought earlier. With City Raider swords being pretty useless on defense, I thought, why not send them down there and see what the defense looks like? The result:

Oho! A single spear on defense! Evidently the archers or longbows slated for this city hadn't reached it yet. My swords won that matchup without breaking a sweat, and so even though Mainz would fall on the interturn (note the 2% city defenses) we essentially exchanged cities and I broke even on the deal.

While all this excitement was going on, I completed the Apostolic Palace in Aachen (790AD). I saw it as a matter of necessity, since one of the cities I captured from Mongolia had Judaism inside it. I could either spread Judaism around to all my cities (a royal pain) or just build the darned thing myself. I went with option B, since the shield boost from temples and monasteries wouldn't hurt:

There's the first vote taking place. Caesar got one vote because he captured Mainz, and that would be it. For whatever reason, I never got the opportunity to propose any resolutions; was that because I was the one civ in the world with Hinduism as my state religion (?) The Apostolic Palace is another part of the gameplay that I just don't know much about. This is only my third full game on Beyond the Sword, hard as that may be to believe!

Now here is where the battle around Mainz really started to get interesting. I moved up my City Raider swords from Gaul and managed to take the city back from Caesar in 820AD (Turn 228). That revealed more Roman units to the east, so I lost the city on the next interturn:

Monty actually jumped into the war here as my ally, of his own accord. (Imagine that!) More importantly though, the Romans had only a single unit left in Mainz, so on the 835AD turn (T229) I recaptured the city back to my side, taking out the axe you see above. On the following interturn, Rome again grabbed the city back using the Praetorian you see on the wheat tile. However, there were only TWO units left to defend Mainz on the 850AD turn: an axe and a redlined Praetorian. First, I took out the axe using my Medic III (Great General) chariot, a unit that was never supposed to see combat at all. That left the one remaining unit in the area, a simple axe, to take out the redlined Prat:

So Mainz returned to my control yet again. And now, with my civ completely and totally gassed, with a stack of four units right outside the city, Caesar was willing to sign peace!

It was a white peace, with no concessions, but who cared? I ended the day in possession of the field, somehow retaining control over Mainz. In fact, I actually GAINED a city as a result of these wars, taking Gaul away from Caesar. I honestly don't know how I managd to pull that off. Fending off two major AI attacks at the same time, using little more than smoke and mirrors, and then to not only lose territory, but gain ground towards Domination - whew! Heady stuff there.

Enough defending though. It was time to shift tacks and go back on the offensive!