Over the past few dozen turns I had managed to land four different wonders and expand out to four cities, with a fifth on the way. But as the last picture indicated, I now was faced with a fairly serious threat, in the form of barbarians erupting from out of the southern jungles. I didn't have any units down there, which was perhaps an oversight on my part, so they had had plenty of time to spawn not only units but whole cities. Fortunately this game didn't have Raging Barbs (fortunately!), but I was about to see plenty of action coming my way. Remember, I had no horses and no metals, and thus no unit better than archers to deal with the barb archers incoming. I was about to have quite the fight on my hand!
A few turns after that last picture, here comes a barb archer after Lyons, and I have only one unit in the area, which must guard the city from being captured. Therefore I'm helpless to prevent my pigs from being pillaged:
Ack! Hey, I needed that food! Fortunately, after pillaging the pigs and the road, the barb archer attacked Lyons and suicided itself against the city's defense. I was able to reconnect the resource fairly quickly with a worker, but it was still an irritation. Clearly something would have to be done about these barbs. I trained more of my own archers and had them all cleared out by 420AD - OK, dealt with the first wave. But they would be back, I knew, and in greater numbers.
I discovered Iron Working in 460AD and could finally begin to tackle that jungle, which was clearly going to be a centuries-long task. More workers were immediately ordered up in my major cities to get started on that long and thankless job. Also important was the discovery that I had two irons (yay!) one outside Rheims and the other southeast of Lyons. Once I got that iron hooked up, I could finally start to do something about those barbs - not to mention put some stronger defenders in my border cities (I haven't forgotten about Temujin and Monty! I trust them about as far as I can throw them.)
Research next went into Alphabet, so that I could see what techs the other civs possessed and hopefully make some advantageous trades. Monty finally got his hands on a religion at about this time, founding Confucianism in 470AD. I expected him to demand I convert (and then declare war when I refused) at any moment. Monty also canceled Open Borders for no apparent reason in 500AD. Gee, who didn't see THAT coming? I'm amazed I managed to keep Open Borders for as long as I did.
Paris generates a second Great Prophet in 500AD, and I'm seriously torn as to whether I should use it to grab Code of Laws (I need courthouses bad) or use it for the Christian shrine. Ultimately, however, since Monty already took Confucianism a few turns earlier, I decided to use the second Great Prophet for the Christian shrine in Orleans. That would prove to be a great decision, as the shrine income really helped me quite a bit at funding more research.
More importantly, the first war of the game had broken out, as Alex had declared on Gandhi. (So much for the "AI civs don't declare war on each other" complaint - I've certainly never seen that in my games.) I still didn't know where these civs were located, but they clearly weren't all that close to me. Then I get this shocker in 510AD - Gandhi wants my help!
Remember, we're allowed to help out a Friendly civ, by rule of this game. I have no clue where Alex is, and relations with such a touchy guy are unlikely to ever improve much... so yeah, let's do this. Might as well get Gandhi onto my side as a strong ally, and this will be a total phoney war anyway. I agree to the offer. (By the way, note the barb archers on the side of the picture - they're coming after Rheims again!)
That was in 510AD. On the very next turn, Gandhi pops up again and proposes trading me gems for cows! Yes - I love you Gandhi! And just like that, my happiness issues were gone, as gems provided +2 happy faces in all my cities with forges. What a bargain! I think I chose the right side to take in that conflict. Nothing came out of the war, and when Gandhi made peace with Alex I did too. But I won myself a nice ally, at the cost of ticking off Alex quite a bit (no loss there...)
Meanwhile, barb archers continued to pour out of the jungles and head for my cities. My own archers would confront them en route and try to get the barbs to attack them in the cover of the trees. Here's a good shot of one such battle:
You can see my archers defending in the forest as the barbs trickle in to attack, as well as one Guerilla II archer of mine who is out in the wilderness to serve as a magnet for barb aggression. There were quite a few units headed my way, but my own losses were virtually non-existent through use of terrain defenses. Some of our new players may have quite a tough time here, however - it wasn't exactly easy to deal with these guys!
Time passed, and the shrine in Orleans plus my Colossus-enhanced fishing towns actually managed to do a good job of improving my economy. I got back to break-even research at 90% science, which was nothing less than a miracle considering where I had been earlier. (You know what that means, however - time to push out and expand further with new cities.) I even got my iron connected and had Paris start building some real units: I wouldn't feel safe until I had an axe and a spear in each of my border cities. Even that was running it a bit light, but I wanted to push expansion too. Tours was founded in 570AD in the center of my subcontinent, and further expansion beyond that would have to wait for the barb cities to be dealt with.
Barb cities? Yeah, here's a picture of them from 660AD:
My Guerilla II archer camped out on that forested hill in neutral territory, allowing me to keep an eye on what they were doing. He also served as a magnet for barb activity, as archer after archer attacked him and suicided against those defenses. That shielded my cities and helped them develop faster. Also keep in mind that I can't raze these cities, so they will be mine eventually. Bantu's not in the spot I would have picked, but overall the two aren't in such bad spots. Going to waste some tiles on the coast to the west of Bantu, of course, but nothing I can do about it.
I discover Alphabet the following turn in 670AD and this is what I can see:
Indeed, there are several trades that can be made here. The best one that I can find is to send Alphabet (which no one else has) to Gandhi in exchange for Math. As a secondary deal, I then send Alphabet to Washington in exchange for Horseback Riding, not because I need it but to improve relations mostly. For that matter, it never hurts to have another military tech on hand "just in case," and I would have horses fairly soon when I founded more cities. With Math in hand, I now began research on Calendar, which would solve my happiness problems for the next eon or so (I already had three different Calendar resources in my territory). Health was never an issue in this game, as there were tons of health resources near the starting position. I had been hurting for happiness badly through much of the game so far, so Calendar would really be a nice boost in that regard. I also had a monopoly on Metal Casting, but that was one tech I wasn't letting go. I'll deprive the AI of the ability to build forges as long as possible.
Nothing too critical happened in the next few turns. Temujin declared war on Gandhi (!) and I expected I would probably be asked to join in, but Gandhi never contacted me, and they eventually made peace. Oh well. I wasn't seeking out a war with Temujin, but I would take advantage of it if it came. Here was the picture of my civ from 750AD:
I've actually done very little expansion recently, but now that my economy is ready to handle more cities, I feel comfortable to grab some more. Lyons is working on a settler to found a city down by the horses, for example. And now that I have some axes and spears in my two border cities of Paris and Orleans, I feel safe enough to build some swords to attack those barb cities and absorb them as well. In other words, this picture is from right before another expansion phase. I felt that I was doing "OK" at this point, but not too spectacular. Still, as the jungle got cut down and replaced with cottages, and my happiness resources hooked up to allow my cities to grow further, I expected the picture to improve.
Marseilles was founded in the west in 820AD (and ouchie on the cost! I needed courthouses and markets badly). Calendar research finished and I began work on Literature, hoping to get the Great Library. Meanwhile, my swords closed in on the barb city of Kushans:
I like that picture. Just because we're the Honorable French doesn't mean that we have to be 100% peaceful, does it? Only two archers, and two workers on hand to be captured? Yeah, this looks good. Naturally I used swords to attack, since I had iron on hand. Swords get a bad rap from a lot of players out there, since axes cost less and get +50% against melee units. I've even heard people say that swords are "useless" since axes can do everything better. Well that's simply not true. Swords are a specialty unit: their purpose is to attack and take cities. With their inbuilt bonus to attacking cities, plus some City Raider promotions, no unit can take cities as well as swords in the early going of the game. If you try to use them as all-purpose units, well, you're going to fail. But if you understand their purpose and use them that way, swords are quite powerful and clearly better than axes at taking cities.
...as the barbs just discovered firsthand. The battle actually went like this: first sword dies to an archer, taking him to 1.9, second sword dies to archer, taking him to 0.6, third sword kills injured archer, my own archer cleans up the last archer to take the city. See, this is why you always must bring enough units to get the job done - 2 swords by themselves would literally have accomplished worse than nothing by promoting the defenders. I had rather bad luck here (it was even odds for my swords to take out those archers), but my planning had seen me through. Now it was time to rest for a few turns, let my surviving units heal, add a few more swords, and take out Bantu as well to completely eliminate the barb presence from my land. That gold boost from taking Kushans didn't hurt either.
930AD arrives, I finish researching Literature and start Construction. Monty demands Metal Casting, which I reject (yeah right!) Then Temujin comes asking for iron. No. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen. So he up and declares war!
Ok, seriously, who didn't see this coming? Temujin's a total psycho, so it was just a matter of time. But now that he's started this war, I intend to make him pay for his arrogance. Mongols to my east and a barb fifth column still sitting in the west - could get interesting! But Temujin's come-uppance shall arrive! I invoke the golden rule for this game: