Epic Three: The Age of the Sword

The first population scoring date past me, my next goal was to focus in on the 1500AD population scoring mark. Of course - that was still a long way away at this point, so for the immediate future I continued to concentrate on general growth and expansion of my civ, without bankrupting myself in the process. I imagine quite a few of our players are going to over-expand and run into serious financial problems in this game. The natural urge when you see all that land out there is to keep expanding without thought about the consequences. Well, I was expanding constantly myself, but hopefully it was being done with some thought behind it too. Long-term goals would include settling the entire starting continent and taking out Louis before 1500AD arrived. If I could do both, I would be in good shape for that population mark too.

My notes are rather sketchy for the following years, simply because not a whole lot was going on. The Colossus was built in a faraway land at the extremely early date of 80AD, at which point in time I still didn't have Metal Casting. Wow! Wonder if that will happen in every game... I finished researching Currency in 125AD, which helped out a lot as it always does, and then started in on Alphabet. Unfortunately, Louis refused to trade me anything once I got Alphabet. What a spoilsport. I can't imagine why he would have cause to dislike me. In fact, not much happened until Louis decided to get frisky and do this:

Declaring war? On me? What did I ever do to deserve this! If you check the AI personalities in the XML, however, Louis is actually one of the more aggressive leaders. He's not in the league of Montezuma or Alex, but Louis is just as aggressive as Mao or Caesar. Louis is also one of the biggest wonder hogs in the game, so he definitely has a unique personality! Anyway, I wasn't exactly in a great position to fight a war here. My entire military was composed of quechuas, and I had less than one per city. I had even deliberately not hooked up my copper and iron so that I could continue to build cheap quechuas for "we need military presence!" garrison happiness. Looks like Louis saw that and decided to take advantage of it. Smart AI.

Fortunately, because I had crippled Louis so badly early on, his military consisted almost entirely of archers. Hmmm... I've got all quechuas, he's got all archers. Maybe this is going to work out better than I thought. I start moving a few quechuas up toward the front lines, although the vast majority of my cities continue working on their endless infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, I get caught by a boat attack at Vilcabamba:

Two archers - not exactly much of a threat. Unfortunately, I've got one quechua, and the other one in the area won't be able to get there until after the fact. Argh. With no shields invested, and Vilcabamba at size 2, I did not have enough population for a quechua whip. Therefore, I just had to wish for good luck and hope for the best. Well, the first French archer lost (I had over 98% odds to win) but critically injured my quechua in the process, allowing the second archer to win. Argh! Of course my following quechua then immediately recaptured the city, but my progress on the granary was lost. And I really hate to lose cities to the AI, even for a turn.

Meanwhile, my exploring quechua in French territory got taken out by a sword! Yikes! When your whole military is composed of warriors, you have no idea how scary even a single sword can be! Fortunately, Louis was willing to talk peace again a couple turns later, and I handed him Alphabet for a reprieve. Whew! Dodged a bullet there for sure. And apparently my Alphabet research hadn't been a waste after all, as I otherwise would have had to give a city for peace. Heh. I was NOT at all in shape to fight at this point, but that would change once I got further down the tech tree.

During the long and peaceful years that followed, I finally generated my first Great Person, a Prophet for my Buddhist shrine. Since I hadn't built any of the early wonders, Mahavira was produced by running a priest specialist at Ollantaytambo for 50 turns. That was certainly a long process, but the Mahabodi (built in 770AD) was a big help to my finances once it was done. To be honest, I did next to nothing with Great People in this game, since I was focusing so intently on either expansion + cottages or (later) military conquest. I was building so many settlers and workers in any city even the least bit productive, it didn't leave any room for wonders or specialists. I'm sure others will have done much more in this regard (especially those pursuing Cultural victory), and the comparisons will be interesting. Civil Service research finished in 845AD, and I adopted Bureaucracy.

My world just after 1000AD:

As far as these cities go, Tiwanaku and Cuzco have been altering settler/worker duty. Cuzco was in a nice cycle of settler (7 turns) followed by worker (4 turns). Cori (building axe) is my main military producer, and Vitcos (in the north) will also help out in that regard once it gets its basic infrastructure established. All of the rest of my cities are configured for commerce. Even so, with a Financial civ and cottages everywhere, I'm barely running a profit at 60% science. Maintenance costs are tough here on Monarch! My finances won't substantially improve until I get further down the tree and can construct grocers/banks, especially in my holy city with the Buddhist shrine. Of course, I've got less than 500 years before the next scoring mark for population, so I have no intention of slowing down expansion anytime soon. My finances will simply have to absorb the hit as best they can. Notice that Louis has only gotten one city past me (using a galley) and has effectively been bottled up on that northern finger of land. I wonder if that was the case in all games (?) I kind of doubt it happened that way for everyone...

One of my goals by 1500AD was to have the whole continent settled, and I was making good progress in that direction. However, there was more "free population" out there for me to grab, if only I could take it away from Louis. One of my other goals, therefore, was to take him out before that date arrived. Hey, if I'm going to have to take him out anyway, I may as well get it done NOW, giving him less time to build up additional forces to oppose me. After getting Civil Service, my research was directed towards Machinery. Maces + cats are a pair that I often like to use for a medieval conquest, as I've usually put my economy in a position to absorb more cities by the time these units arrive on the scene. Well, I had NOT gotten my economy to a stable point as yet, but that was of no consequence for the scoring of this game. I'm perfectly willing to absorb more population until my civ collapses under the costs. A couple dozen turns of preparation and several axe to mace upgrades had me in position to declare war by 1238AD:

There was a worker building a cottage right on the border, so I sniped him in my initial war declaration. That was a nice little boost, any additional workers were more than welcome for this game. I moved on Avignon with my main force, to take out the only city that Louis had gotten beyond his starting peninsula. In capturing the city, I picked up another worker who had fled there for safety:

And get this - there's ANOTHER French worker just to the west of the city! I grabbed that one too. Mmm, free slaves. Me like.

Now my next obvious target was the city of Chartres, whose cultural borders bisected my cities in the north and had been irritating me for some time. I always hate having to share a border with a Creative civ - and I love it when I'm the Creative city and the other guy isn't. While I was maneuvering my maces and cats into position around that city, Louis brought his own stack and sent it after the city he had already targeted in the past: Vilcabamba.

Two swords, an axe, a spear, and an archer. To meet them I have... two quechuas. That looks bad, but I turned science down to 0% (as you can see in this picture) which allowed me to upgrade one of the quechuas to a mace, then I swapped to a mace and whipped it in time to complete production before the French stack arrived. Two maces were easily enough to defeat that particular attack force, and I beat it off with no real threat.

Meanwhile, my own soldiers were making progress against Chartres:

Taking the city was great, but eep! Look at Louis' incoming stack! They were sitting on a jungle hill tile, so I reasoned that it would be a mistake to try and attack them there. I stuck one mace on the jungle tile northeast of the city, and then dared Louis to either attack me in Chartres or march past it onto flat ground. He opted to attack the city, and the results were predictable:

My forces were redlined (as you can see under the window), but the French units were all killed. With a medic unit on hand as always, they healed up rather fast and then got back into the action. Meanwhile, Louis had one more group of reserves to throw at me, boating them once more at his favorite target of Vilcambamba.

I had one mace on hand, but to ensure the safety of the city I had to whip ANOTHER mace there. Good grief, that poor city! Still, with two maces on defense, that stack stood absolutely no chance. The cat and axe died attacking the city, and I attacked out of Vilcabamba to kill the archers. After that, Louis had obviously used up all of his attacking units, because he huddled in his cities and did not contest my control of the field. From here on out, I would simply have to walk from city to city capturing them as I went.

Unfortunately, look at the left side of that last screenshot: longbows. Louis obviously discovered the tech in 1298AD, because all his archers went *poof* and suddenly became longbows. Man, I hate when that happens. That was going to make this a lot harder, but fortunately most of the French cities were not on hills, and City Raider maces do quite well against longbows on flatland once the city defenses are down.

As a demonstration of that, I took Lyons in 1310AD. Louis actually moved three galleys INTO the city right before I captured it, hehe. I may have failed in my quechua attack there in 2000BC, but my maces got the job done right. From there, it was a natural progression on to Orleans:

And it came with another free worker, very nice. Note also that a longbow moved OUT of Orleans when it was under siege; looks like the AI was doing funny things with its unit assignments once again. In other news, I'm down to 40% science right now, since these city are enormously far away from my palace in Cuzco. The good news is that I'm still researching at a pretty good clip, because 40% of a boatload of commerce is still a boatload of commerce! Still, given the distances involved, I expect at least one player will conquer Louis and then find themselves going broke. Or they might have to raze some of his cities, but that wouldn't help you as far as the population scoring goes. Then again, maybe I'm overthinking this.

Of course, the crowning moment of the campaign came a few turns later when I advanced on and captured Paris:

And Paris had the Great Lighthous in there too! Not as useful on this kind of map, but certainly a nice boost. I was up to 10% now on the culture slider, and some of my cities were really starting to get unhappy, but this war was rapidly approaching its end. Just a few more cities to go. Rheims taken in 1400AD, Marseilles fell (with two more workers!) in 1418AD. And on the same turn, my two maces in the west took out Louis' colony of Besancon to finish him for good:

I could have taken Besancon much earlier, but it was in exactly the spot I wanted and I was hoping to capture it. Alas, Louis failed to get the city to size 2, and so it was auto-razed upon capture. Stupid AI. With all the other French cities taken and war weariness a major problem, I couldn't wait any longer and so I had to destroy it. I would have to get a settler back here myself to re-found the city now.

With the conquest of France, the Age of the Sword was now over. My eyes would be set next on exploration of the seas and growth for the imminent 1500AD benchmark date. Once I found out where the remaining two AI civs were hiding, I could work out a plan for how I was going to conquer them too.