Epic One: The Opening

It's been a while since I played one of the Realms Beyond Epic games.

Oh sure, I played in a couple of the last remaining Epics for Civ3, Epics #47 and 48, but that was only due to the fact that I was waiting for my Civ4 testing CD to arrive in the mail at the time. I was already out of the Civ3 mindset and looking towards Civ4. In other words, this was the first real Epic that I have played since Epic 29, which closed in June of 2003! I must say that I was looking forward to it as well, having spent so much time working on Civ4 prior to release. It will be very interesting to see how everyone responds to playing the same start, between the few of us who have been working on Civ4 for months now (or in Sirian's case, years), our long-term Epic participants from Civ3 who are relatively new to Civ4, and the many faces new to Realms Beyond entirely playing their first Epic. To be perfectly honest, I can't wait for report day to arrive.

Let me say a little bit about my strategy going into this game, which everyone might not have considered before starting. We are playing as Louis, an Industrious and Creative civ. That means first of all that we'll get a big boost to building wonders, naturally, and (what is not known so well) a boost to building forges as well. In all honesty, I think the double-speed construction of forges is almost as big of a benefit as the increased wonder building for Industrious civs. With the slow pace of everything in Epic game speed, getting to forges early on and having all of the player's cities build them could be a huge boost, one I planned to try and follow. Secondly, the teaser image from the game shows there to be stone in the starting position. Stone! Stone + industrious = guaranteed Stonehenge if you want it. Now granted, the value of that with a Creative civ is considerably less, but still not to be overlooked. I decided I would NOT pursue an early religion out of the gate, and instead focus on rapid development, relying on building Stonehenge down the road for free Great Prophet points, which I would use to take a free religion later on down the road. Finally, as far as the Creative trait goes, that means cheap theatres (so it will be important to try and control dyes, which get double happiness with theatres) and free cultural expansions. I can push my borders right up against the AI civs and muscle them around early in the game, and on a pangaea, I was sure that I would get the chance to do so. This was my plan going into the game: rapid early growth, build some key early wonders, and use the free culture to push around any AI civs that tried to encroach on MY land.

So here we go, take a look at the start position:

It's got cows, and it's on fresh water...

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What do you mean that's not the Epic One starting position? That's the start from Epic One, The Honorable French! I swear it is!

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Oh, the start for Epic One in Civilization FOUR! Amazing how forgetful we get to be in our old age here. Ah, yes. Well. The start for Civ4's Epic One is certainly nice, on a lake and with cows and stone in range. I expect most players will simply found on the starting tile. However, I could see that there was water under the fog in the north, so I decided to move the warrior first to see if there was a better site for a city that would also allow me to plant on the coast. Here's what I saw:

Aha! Well, let's see what we have here. If I move the settler to the red dot, I can pull wheat and silks into range of the city, while still holding onto the stone and the cows. And I'll get to be on the coast too! Now the one downside is that I do have to move off the freshwater lake, and I will be giving up some hills so there will be a bit less production down the road. But I think the tradeoff is more than worth it, and so I move to the spot indicated and found Paris in 3960BC. I begin by building a warrior and putting my first research into Hunting. Yes - Hunting, as I already have Agriculture and The Wheel to hook up the wheat, and I'm not going after an early religion. Checking the opposing civs list with F8 - my opponents include Gandhi and Montezuma. Yeah, I'm REALLY not going after a religion now! Those two will surely grab the early ones, possibly leaving me out in the cold. That seems like a bad deal all around. I'll research Hunting first and build a scout to get rapid contact with the other civs and initiate diplomacy - or at least, that's the plan at this point.

The borders of Paris pop in 3800BC, and I am put into contact with another civ already:

Oh my, Temujin? This close to my capital already?! Could... get... ugly. Seriously though, just LOOK at that face! Would you trust a man who looks like that? (I love the Temujin leaderhead, by the way. The artists perfectly captured the image of a cruel and arrogant despot.)

My research is about to complete on Hunting in 3640BC, and all of a sudden, I discover I have another neighbor!

Oh MY! Temujin and Monty are my neighbors for this game? Buckle up, kiddies. This isn't going to be a smooth ride. I expect we're going to have QUITE some stories from our players before this game is done. These are literally the two most aggressive civs in the game. I make a mental note to research Archery sooner rather than later.

On the following turn I finish my Hunting research and also finish a warrior in Paris, so let me show you what the city looked like at that early date:

My plan is to have Paris start a worker when it reaches size 2, which will nicely coincide with the completion of this scout! In some cases I will start on a worker immediately at size 1, but with a sizable pangaea map here, not to mention two aggressive neighbors in range, I want some units out first to give me a better sense of my surroundings and how I should play the start. Research you can see is into Animal Husbandry, so that after the first worker builds a farm on the wheat he can then go and hook up the cows as well. Animal Husbandry will also reveals horses as well, which is always a good thing to know. (Techs sure take a long time to research on Epic, don't they? You really have to THINK about what you need most, because it will take a long time to get to the next tech!)

Now as far as the terrain around Paris, look at how I've circled the center tile of the city and the silks tile that the city is working. Because I founded on a hill tile, I get an extra shield in the center of the city, at the cost of not being able to mine that same hill tile later on. (This is just one of those little things you learn as you play more of the game.) As a result, I have a little extra production here at the start of the game. And since I can work the silks tile here, I also pull in one additional commerce each turn compared to what I would usually get. Minor stuff, to be sure, but since everything grows so slowly on Epic speed, the early decisions are magnified even more in importance. I enjoy thinking about stuff like this a lot.

My first warrior had headed west exploring, which was actually the direction opposite from the AI civs, although I didn't know it at the time. He found acres and acres of jungle in that direction and to the south. Lots of future potential, but totally useless until I reached Iron Working and could cut it down. That warrior got hit by panthers a couple times and had to keep stopping to heal before exploring further (you DON'T want to lose your explorers in an Epic game, given how long it takes to train replacements). Popped one hut, got gold - nothing too noteworthy there. Buddhism was FIDL (founded in a distant land) in 3520BC, but NOT by Monty? Interesting. I guessed it must be Gandhi instead, since he was the only other Spiritual civ. I expect Monty to grab Hinduism any minute now and then get pissed at me if I don't adopt it immediately, of course. Paris finishes its scout in 3280BC, hitting size 2 the same turn, and starts on a worker. Only 15 turns - that's pretty fast for Epic, actually. Going to be hitting "next turn" a lot for a while though.

3120BC... AH! Temujin is RIGHT THERE!

I've marked the spot where his city has to be with a brown X. Wow - this is really, really close. But there is an upside to it as well, because if I can get a city to the red dot indicated before Temujin gets a settler out, I can completely cut him off from all access to the land to the west. Remember, I'm Creative here and can easily win any cultural border war early on. So that now becomes the plan for my early game: grab red dot city (Sirian would make this "pink dot", but I will never understand his fascination with that!) and hold it at all costs. Then I can fill in my back line cities at leisure. And, just to make that spot doubly appealing, it has dyes too! Yay! (Remember what I said about Creative civs loving dyes.)

Of course, my plan to put Temujin in a cultural box is still far-off at this point. For now, all I'm doing is exploring and getting the lay of the land. I finish researching Animal Husbandry in 3000BC and start Mining, on my way towards Masonry (quarry on the stone, naturally). Unfortunately, my scout who was running from a lion ends his turn next to a bear in 2960BC and dies. He was in a forest too. Bad luck. This prompts me to build a replacement scout after I finish my worker in 2680BC (hey, I need to work on something while growing to size 3, might as well!) I soon meet Washington and Alexander, whom I can only presume are further away from me - somewhere. My scout in the east got killed, remember, so I really don't know where they are. I could tell by this point that I had a little subcontinent to myself on the western edge of the pangaea. It wasn't such a bad place - aside from being a little "jungly", if you know what I mean.

Here's a more complete picture of the surroundings from 2440BC:

Yep, red dot is the best spot for the next city, alright. My warriors in the southeast are spying on what Temujin is doing in his capital; you can see that he's already built an archer, not that I could attack him by rule even if I wanted to! In 2360BC, my warrior sees that he's built a worker - yes! Good news! That means that I will definitely be able to beat him to the spot I want. Sometimes the AI builds a settler before a worker, and I couldn't out-race that. But this would indeed be doable. Then I would just have to make sure I could defend the city once I got it!

Scout #2 finds the location of Monty's capital in the north:

He just finished a worker as well. No archer defending his capital though, so he obviously took a different research path than Temujin. I wondered at this point if these two would be able to get along with each other - a lot depends on whether they end up sharing a religion or not. We'll see what happens. Overall though - wow, are we cramped here! Conflict seems likely at some point.

Paris hit size 3 in 2120BC, at which time I swapped it from putting some shields into a barracks and began a settler. 15 turns to build it, which would drop further with some more worker actions. Masonry research came in and I swapped to Mysticism, as I intend to head for Stonehenge as soon as the first settler is done. I also noted at this point that Karakorum had grown to size 4, so it evidently wasn't working on a settler yet. That was good news, but all those archers were making me a little nervous! Then my second scout was eaten by a bear in 2000BC while running from panthers. It just was not my game for barb luck, I suppose.

Check out this strange AI worker behavior that I noted in 1825BC:

Why is Temujin's worker building a road on this tile? (They just roaded the hill tile to the north too.) If the worker does have any more resources to hook up, it at least should be mining those hills right? And if Temujin didn't research Mining yet (which is the likely conclusion) - well, he should have! Building useless roads this early in the game? What a waste of that first worker. But I wasn't complaining.

Settler in Paris finishes in 1750BC and heads for red dot, where there are two warriors waiting for safety. Due to some nice planning, Mysticism finishes the same turn and I begin work on Stonehenge! (due in 18 turns, but that will drop when stone is hooked up in 4 turns) Research not surprisingly goes into Archery next (I'm a little nervous here!) Since Temujin still doesn't have a settler out yet, it's no contest. Orleans founded in 1650BC, and Temujin finishes a settler on the same turn! HA!

I cut and pasted the shot so you can see the settler in Karakorum. As soon as the borders expand at Orleans, my territory will be completely sealed off from the Mongols, a la RB1 and what we did to England there. My early plan has thus panned out, and Temujin would in fact send that settler to the east instead of to the west. But... would he have done that if Orleans hadn't already been on the map? That I don't know. This is why I'm looking forward to comparing these reports so much! And how else would things be different if I hadn't moved the settler on the first turn (towards Temujin, as it turns out!) thereby allowing me to block off the land to the west with only one extra city? Like I said, I'm looking forward to the other reports!

The next task would be securing what I already had and beginning to fill in the back lines with cities.