Epic Six: Drawing a Line in the Sand

Capturing Delhi was important for several different reasons. Aside from the obvious near-destruction of my closest foe, the city also had one of the few pre-Calendar happiness resources near the starting position, a gold resource to the north of the city. The only other happiness resource nearby was a gems one, which Gandhi had grabbed with his second city of Bombay. Anyone who wants pre-Calendar luxury resources in this game is going to have to go through India! (By the way, another reason I was happy with taking Metal Casting from the Oracle was that both these resources get +1 happiness from forges.) Even though Noble has much more relaxed happy/health limits than what I'm used to, my cities were pushing the happy limit of 5, and that gold was a welcome commodity.

The other reason that Delhi was a big deal was due to the fact that it was the HinJew holy city. I had not pursued an early religion in this game, hoping to capture one for my own use. Success! Let's spread some religion around and start raking in tithes from the believers.

My combined Stonehenge/Oracle wonders produced a Great Prophet in 460BC, and Moses headed up to Delhi to build me a shrine:

Delhi was the only city in the world with Hinduism in it, but Judaism had spread across the western bay to Saladin. It was an obvious choice therefore to go with Judaism as my state religion rather than Hinduism. (It was also fun to have Moses build the Jewish shrine!) When I converted to Judaism on the same turn, I got a sneak peak into Saladin's core:

I see you, Saladin! The espionage boost was not a huge deal, but it was nice to have some warning of what was going on across the water. Probably the biggest benefit was being able to see incoming AI boat attacks a turn or two before they arrived.

A little before this point in time, around 500BC, I founded a city by the stone resource and was faced with a decision to make. I would have stone connected shortly, and the question was whether to halt my expansion push at Berlin (which was churning settlers and workers) in order to build the Pyramids. I thought long and hard on this one, but ultimately decided it would be more beneficial to my civ for expansion to continue. The Pyramids is a great wonder, no doubt, but if I could build two or three cities in the time it took to construct the wonder, I would rather have the former. For the moment, therefore, I continued to churn out settlers/workers from Berlin in true Civ3 settler spam fashion. It could produce workers in 3 turns and settlers in 6 turns - and this on Epic speed? Sweet! I'll have that dotmap filled up in no time!

So I basically continued to work on that for the next dozen or so turns, without too much happening. The AI civs were likely expanding themselves, because I wasn't seeing much from them. When I discovered Code of Laws, Munich became the Confucian holy city (heh), which was pretty meaningless because I had already decided to go with Judaism as my state religion. By around 100BC, however, things were finally starting to heat up. Peter sent a bunch of archers, which briefly managed to pillage the gold at Delhi after I lost an 85% battle with my chariot. Argh!

In another indication of the increased AI pressure, Alex sent the first major stack of the game at me a few turns later:

This is one of the big differences between Civ3 and Civ4 Always War; in Civ3, the AIs would send units constantly, but they traveled piecemeal style, only forming stacks by coincidence. In Civ4, you might not see anything for a half dozen turns, but when the AI does attack, it brings stacks of units. This is one of the reasons why Always War is much more difficult in Civ4, and why players could routinely win Emperor Always War in Civ3, while Prince is a rough challenge in Civ4.

Alex's stack of archers was a very real danger, and I had to whip an archer in Delhi to make sure of holding the city. As it was, my sword and axe in the area were out of position to defend, so things were tense. If the city had not been a holy city, getting +40% on defense, I very well could have lost it here. As it was, my units were redlined, but I suffered no losses.

I wanted to eliminate India, but I had not had the units on hand to do so. Remember, all my axes died taking Delhi, so I had to train a whole new strike force before I could think about going on the offensive again, and then I had to deal with stacks from Peter and Alex. Furthermore, with Berlin on settler duty, and Hamburg my bigtime commerce city with few shields, I was slow on producing more units until Munich could be brought up to speed. But once that was finally finished, I assembled some swords and went after Bombay:

I got lucky here and saw my swords win two virtual coinflip battles (59%). With that, India was finally finished:

One down, six to go. For someone who had been bottled up for so long, Gandhi certainly did hang around for a while. But I always had other priorities that were more urgent, and so I was very slow at both taking Delhi and destroying India. (Certainly I expect others to shatter those dates in terms of honorable mention points!) But Gandhi was no threat to me, sending no units and doing basically nothing, so what was the hurry? Strengthening my own civ was a higher priority than chasing honorable mention credentials.

Here was what my civ looked like in 100AD:

Out to nine cities now, and still quite a few more city sites still to go. Berlin had already produced six settlers by the start of AD years - don't try this in every game! The fact that I had so many cities, with a palace that was not centrally located, and could still run 60% science at a sustainable deficit, says volumes about how much looser the maintenance costs are on Noble. I'd probably be at about 20% science on Emperor.

A few words about my cities are in order here. Berlin is configured for production, although it does have one floodplains cottage. I'm sure you could also go the cottage route there, but the city location was SO good, that seemed like a waste to me. After founding all these cities, I am now having the capital take a short break from settler production to build the Pyramids, since I can get the wonder in a mere 10 turns. Frankly, I expected the Pyramids to fall to an AI civ, but if they weren't going to build it, I would happily take advantage of that. Hamburg is an amazing commerce city, running six floodplains cottages already and working on its seventh cottage as we speak. I treated it like a fishing village, whipping for production and running scientist specialists (via library) when it was at the happy cap. Munich and Frankfurt both have little commerce potential, and are on the frontlines, so they will be the military backbone of my war effort. This picture was taken when they were both on infrastructure, but don't let that fool you. Delhi will be configured for commerce, with its gold resource and river cottages, but it would also have enough production to try its hand at building some coastal wonders. Bombay I was never quite sure what to do with, and it would be a sort of production/commerce hybrid. Cologne, Essen, and Dortmund are all coastal cities configured to work the sea for commerce. Being so close to the palace, Essen and Dortmund were pure profit right from the start, and I was glad I founded them.

Now notice the huge desert to the west of my civilization. That land is all junk and I have no intention of pushing into it; I will simply defend what you see here for a long time yet to come. I have "drawn a line in the sand" so to speak, and anything that comes past it must die. Tokugawa's city of Edo, for example, will have to be razed. Anything to the west of that is fine, and I will not contest it for now, but if the AI civs cross the desert - they're going down.

In the picture above, Delhi is working on a courthouse, but that's a bit of a misnomer because I had only swapped to a courthouse on this very turn. Delhi actually built the Colossus in 110AD, which was a great help to all my fishing cities. +50% commerce on my water tiles, woohoo!

In another amusing incident, take a look at Frankfurt:

The city is size 3, and it has TWENTY health points. Have you ever seen anything like this before? I'm getting +8 health from resources, +3 health for being Expansionist, +4 health from forests, and +2 from being on fresh water. Amazing stuff. Once I mine some of those hill tiles and get a forge in Frankfurt, you can see it will be quite the military crank.

As I said above, Toku crossed the line and so his city must burn:

Burn baby, burn! That'll teach you to mess with Bismarck! The cash was a nice extra boost.

I finally built the Pyramids in 245AD - I may very well win the award for latest Pyramids, hehe. Berlin resumed building - guess what? - more settlers. Still whipping courthouses across much of my civ to reduce maintenance costs. Meanwhile, Tokugawa showed up with a legitimately scary stack on the same date:

Uh oh. That could cause some problems. Fortunately, my Guerilla II archer camped out on the hill gave me plenty of warning; without knowing these guys were coming, I might really have had some trouble. I similarly had a chariot down at the bottom of the map to give warning about units from the south. In Multiplayer, these units would be known as a sentry net, but regardless of what you call them I was darn glad to have them!

No sooner was that threat taken care of when Alex and a combined Izzy/Peter stack began causing problems at Delhi:

Urp! That's a lot of units. Fortunately most of them were archers, but it was still more than I had units on hand to deal with. In other words, Delhi itself isn't in serious danger, but there's not much I can do to stop the AI from pillaging if it wants to. And we all know how much the AI loves pillaging... Seven units attack Delhi in 350AD, and when the dust cleared, the city was still standing:

I killed seven units and lost one of my own, a clear victory, but the archers that did not attack moved onto defensive terrain (note the arrows), and I will be powerless to prevent them from pillaging me. Going to lose that gold resource AGAIN, argh! More units incoming from the southwest too, yikes! Time to heal up and regroup for the next wave.

By 425AD the Battle of Delhi was over, but I had been pillaged rather badly:

This was the worst pillaging I took in the entire game, with Delhi losing virtually every tile improvement, even its floodplains cottage which I worked very hard to try and protect. Argh! However, the important thing was that I held onto the city, even with some close calls, and with four workers in the area, I would be able to repair the damage pretty fast. First order of priority was to reconnect the road down to Munich for troop movement, then to reconnect the critical gold resource.

This national wonder, completed a few turns later, was a major boost:

Heroic Epic in Munich at the relatively early date of 545AD. Now a word about the strategy behind this move. I expect most people to build the Heroic Epic in Berlin; it's a natural move, and far from a bad play given Berlin's awesome location. But I wasn't using Berlin to build military for my civ; it was building either settlers/workers or wonders for pretty much the entire game. And if you're not going to be building military in a city, then there's no point in putting the Heroic Epic in there! It was precisely because Munich's location did NOT have a great deal of commerce potential that I chose to turn it into one of my barracks cities, and so Heroic Epic became a natural fit there. It would be building military for almost every turn of the game hereafter. I'll be interested to see how others play this, but I think my strategy was sound.

Look where Kagoshima was placed above. It seems Toku has not learned his lesson yet. I grabbed some swords and re-educated him about what happens when you cross the line:

Mmm, toasty. Another junk city burned to the ground. 532'ed it. We can do this all day, Toku!

My second Great Person at Berlin was also a Prophet, not surprising given the early Stonehenge/Oracle combo. That was fine with me, because I had been planning all along to get a Prophet and use him for this:

No AIs had reached the tech yet, so I founded yet another religion that I would never use. I used this opportunity to do a 2-for-1 civics swap, adopting Theocracy and Representation. Yes, I stuck with Hereditary Rule for quite some time even after having the Pyramids, because frankly that civic was benefiting me more. I didn't need Representation when I had a happy surplus and was running no specialists! But now was a good time to make the double move, and so I piggybacked the switch along with Theocracy. Double-promoted units coming out at a fast clip from my Heroic Epic city were a major help.

The AIs continued to attack mostly at Delhi during these dates, but I now had plenty of units in the city and their incursions amounted to nothing. They attacked the city in 575AD, 650AD, and 740AD but never managed to kill any of the defenders. My corn resource south of the city was pillaged many times, but that was easily replaceable after each assault. I, of course, continued to make no move against the AI cores, still founding more cities and working on my economic/production base. This wonder was another major boost:

I had quite a lot of coastal cities designed to do nothing but pull in additional commerce, so this added a lot of income. It took me from 50% to 60% science, a noticeable difference. And look, you can see the results of another failed invasion of Delhi in green on the left side of the screen!

On the same turn that I built the Great Lighthouse, Saladin popped a Great Prophet in one of his cities, which of course I could see due to the presence of Judaism. This would have been an unremarkable occurence, except that it was the first AI Great Person of the game! Yes, I had locked down every single wonder in the game so far, and that evidently had hurt the AI civs badly. I'm used to seeing the AI civs pop tons of Great People and use them for lots of golden ages; when they were not doing that, as they were here, the results were... not pleasant for the AIs. More on this later as the game developed further.

In one of the previous screenshots, you saw Berlin working on a courthouse. Obviously there was no reason for the capital to need a courthouse, but I needed six of them to start the Forbidden Palace, and the courthouse could be built in just six turns there to help knock out that requirement. If I'm talking about this here, you can probably guess what my next screenshot will show:

Munich finished the Forbidden Palace in 875AD for a perfect double-ring core of cities, in classic Civ3-style. The savings on maintenance were noticeable, although naturally nowhere near as critical as the corruption fighting effects of the Civ3 version of the wonder. There's a very good chance that it could also get me the honorable mention for "earliest Forbidden Palace", although of course I did not build it with that in mind. There had been a lull in AI activity that allowed me to sneak this in, but as you can see in the picture, with Spanish aggression incoming at Munich, I was now quite happy to get it back on military!

With almost all of my cities now founded, and having gotten one free border expansion from Stonehenge, I was now able to go on to Calendar for the additional happiness resources. I could research the tech in just three turns, which was pretty cool. The AIs were certainly sending more units now, but with catapults on hand to help deal collateral damage when necessary, I was able to stay ahead of the tide. I actually promoted a lot of cats to Melee, which is something I almost NEVER do, but I wanted to keep my attrition rate low. You usually see City Raider or Barrage promotions on cats, but I wasn't attacking cities and I wanted to keep them alive. Promote based on need, not conventional thinking!

Toku STILL hasn't learned his lesson and needs another smacking:

Won't he EVER learn? I guess I'll have to keep using the hammer then.

I was researching Music above for the free Great Artist, which not surprisingly I did get. If anything, I was overestimating the AIs research capabilities in this regard. Munich above was sneaking in a settler between military builds to grab the silks location down in the south, although I often had to rotate in an axe or cat as need dictated while working on it. Berlin was done with settler patrol, and now on wonder duty. It finished the Great Library in 1010AD, and this was what my world looked like at that date:

Out to 12 cities now, and still two more to found. One will go on the tile in the southwest where my archer is standing, in order to claim the silks (circled in red). A final city will go even further south than that, to claim a silver resource that is hidden under the interface. Berlin on aqueduct for Hanging Gardens, hopefully every other city should be self-explanatory. I still had all of the wonders, without really trying for them very hard at all, and my research was up to a healthy rate of 200 beakers/turn at a slight deficit. As my cities continued to develop, that would only go up further.

The demographics from this same date were almost frightening:

I expect to dominate the categories against Noble AIs, but that GNP stat... yikes. This is not going to end well for the AI civs. The average AI GNP is 22, and there are six of them. If you multiply that out, we come to the amazing conclusion that I am out-researching all of the AI civs combined! That wouldn't be so bad if the AI civs were trading techs back and forth and playing as a team, like they usually do in an Always War game, but... tech trading is OFF for this game. As time passed, it would become more and more obvious that this was crippling the AI civs. For now, all I knew was that the AIs were not performing as well as usual.

1000AD was a nice round date on which to stop and evaluate my civilization's progress. With most of the medieval techs now out of the way, the upcoming decades would be spent eagerly anticipating the arrival of cavalry and the glorious offensive on the horizon.