Epic Eight: Cultural Shenanigans

I played the turns up to 1AD in two long sessions, as I frequently do when starting out a new Epic/Adventure. I did not have any plan in mind when I began the game, but between sessions I thought about things a bit and came up with some guidelines that I thought would make the game more fun. Usually I'm not much of a fan of the "variant within the variant" that certain people like so much (I'm looking at you, Cy!), but I couldn't resist here. I decided that I would play a modified version of the Honorable ruleset from Epic One, in which I would not only avoid declaring war on any of the other civs, but would refrain from attacking enemy cities, or even entering enemy territory, should war break out. This will be a peaceful building exercise, pure and simple. (I also decided I would ignore some of the more tedious aspects of the Honorable ruleset, since this game was just for fun.)

Now with that in mind, this would be the absolute perfect game for a Cultural victory, with a Spiritual civ and 4 self-founded religions. But no, not going to do that either. I just don't like the way Cultural victory is implemented; the fact that building a bunch of cottages and cranking up the culture slider to 100%, THAT gives you more culture than ANYTHING else in the game - well, something is broken there. I created a succession game just to get a cultural victory, and we had a total blast, but I'm not interested in pursuing that line of gameplay further. Space race would therefore be the most logical outcome if I'm not going for culture, but nope, not interested in that either. I know I can do the space thing - Zeviz has the space sequence down pat, and I've picked up the gist of how to do it pretty close to the optimal sequence - and it's just not that interesting to me. That leaves...

Diplomacy. My favorite victory condition. I've probably spent more time working with the UN than anyone else; it's just one of my pet interests in Civ4. We all have areas of expertise in this game: Sirian wrote the book on naval and air power, Blake is the whipping expert, sooooo is the master of early aggression, and so on. I've always been most interested in working with the rules surrounding culture flipping, the draft, and the diplomatic victory. Anyone can conquer the AIs, but it takes finesse to get them to vote for you, if you know what I mean. With all these religions on hand (or, more accurarely, buried so they'll never see the light of day) I should be able to get some civs on my side in a future vote. In fact, I'll NEED to get civs to vote for me to win by diplomacy, because if I don't attack anyone, there's no way I'm going to end up with more than 30% of the world's population. A True Diplomatic victory, now that would be something to strive for! So the goal of this game becomes winning via the UN as early as possible, with space as the backup condition if that doesn't work out.

Hey, don't look at me like that. You knew I had to get a couple paragraphs of theorizing in eventually!

As one of the first visible signs of that effort, I began my missionary push in earnest during the new millenium. Mansa Musa became the third civ to see the true light:

Of course, *I* still haven't even swapped to Hinduism yet! Getting too much value from my extra holy cities, heh. But I will swap soon enough. One piece of BAD news that doesn't show up here is that Caesar founded Taoism in 20AD, undoubtedly with a Great Scientist grab of Philosophy. Phoey on that. Fortunately, he did not convert as yet, so there was still hope that he could be moved into the Hindu alliance - but any extra religion out there was bad news!

Note the research above: Drama. After grabbing Alphabet tech, I researched Literature and then went on to Drama, followed by Music. I spurned the traditional early beeline to Civil Service in favor of early cheap theatres - for yet more culture! (Don't forget, I had dyes on hand, so they were useful for happiness too.) I tell you, few things are more useful to build early on in a fledgling city than half-cost Creative theatres. As for Music tech... we'll get to that in a bit. I had plans for that too.

Here's something your wandering scout doesn't see every day - a Great Engineer passing by!

Imhotep obviously sprung from the Pyramids. I followed him for a turn, until FDR used the Engineer to build Chichen Itza. Whew - that's a wonder he's happy to have!

The next couple turns were uneventful as I continued to develop peacefully. Elizabeth was finally willing to talk to me, so I signed Open Borders and ordered up some Hindu missionaries to cement her status more fully in the Hindu camp. I didn't want to see her pop back to Buddhism! The other noteworthy event from these turns was my trading for Currency (thanks, Mansa!) for Code of Laws + Calendar. The ability to pick up gold from backwards civs would be as huge as ever, as I sold outdated techs for cash and upped my research rate significantly. I had been stuck at 40% science in 5AD, but as you'll see in the next picture, I was running 70% at no problems by 395AD.

With Literature and Drama in hand, I had a sizable research discount on Music for knowing both its prerequisites, and the tech came due in 395AD. As expected, I popped the first Great Artist of the game:

Note that I'm two turns away from the Great Library; I would naturally get that too (thanks, marble!) and thus I won't post another picture of its completion. Even as I landed the Library in 425AD, Homer was heading to the west on a secret mission. First I founded the junk city of Byblos in a poor location:

Talk about grasping at straws, this is my worst city location yet! Ah, but the Roman city of Antium has Christianity as its religion, meaning it has NEVER expanded its borders yet, and that will be critical. Homer does his Great Artist thing, and boom!

That, my friends, is how you peacefully grab new territory where none is to be had. I spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right location for Byblos; the city actually MUST go on this tile, because all the spots to the north and west are illegal city locations, and anything to the south will have greatly reduced odds to flip Antium. This move only worked because it happened to be in a part of the map that was weak on culture; thank goodness Caesar didn't have Judaism in Antium! But a major victory here nonetheless, without firing a shot. I sometimes think we underestimate the power of the Great Artist, just because it's become so passe to use a culture bomb nowadays. Leveraged in the right place, at the right time though - the results can be huge!

The Great Library significantly increased the rate at which Thebes was producing Great Person points, but due to its recent construction the next Great Person to pop out was a Prophet. That was fine with me, as I had a great desire to build the Hindu shrine and get some payback for all my missionary efforts! Here's what the inside of my capital looked like when the shrine went up in 485AD:

The 13 cities wasn't a particularly great effort so far, but that would increase with time. Notice also that although Thebes would probably be better suited for production, I have nonetheless configured it for commerce here by replacing all the jungle tiles with cottages. The Bureaucracy boost to commerce just makes that the better strategy in almost all cases... and speaking of the devil, I'm heading for Civil Service right now! I'm sure many players will get there earlier, but I reaped plenty of value from hitting the top of the tree first.

Egypt in 500AD:

The biggest change was in the west, where the Great Artist pushed my borders a good 3-4 tiles further out. If I manage to flip Antium, I'll be at the gates of Rome itself! My cities are culturally dominant everywhere; poor Djenne is being deprived of 8 different tiles. I'll be most interested to see how the other Egypt players do in terms of land grabbing, especially those who choose to play this thing peacefully (I already had 21% of the world's land area). If anyone can out-do this effort without declaring war, I will be seriously impressed!

I expected the following few centuries to pass without much fanfare, but it was not to be. The game's first war broke out in 575AD! But get this - for once, the human player was not the target!

There's actually two bits of information there, with the announcement that I was abandoning my atheist ways to finally join the Hindu bloc taking second billing. As far as the Japanese/Roman war, where is Toku planning on attacking?

Right there at Antium! This is actually good news for me; that Roman garrison is surely going to fall, and then Toku will have a city with zero infrastruture on his hands trying to fend off MAJOR cultural pressure. Ha! Couldn't have turned out any better.

At least, that's what I was thinking until I got this message between turns:

Urp! Caesar wants MY help in the war against Japan! Saying that I was "ill-prepared" for a war would be putting it lightly. I'm actually in quite a bind here, because if I reject Caesar's overtures I will be accumulating a significant minus which will last forever, making it less likely he'll vote for me. Do I really want to do that? In the end, I decide I'd better do what Caesar asks, because I'm going to NEED his vote down the road to win by diplomacy. I mean, it's not like TOKUGAWA is going to vote for me!

Sure enough, Antium falls even as my war declaration is publically proclaimed. Now all I have to do is hold off Toku's army with my sole axeman in Byblos. Good luck with that buddy, let me know how it goes, m'kay?

Of course, I didn't leave things up to fate and good luck. I pulled war chariots from all over my territory and massed them in Byblos, waiting for Toku to make a move after me. And... he never attacked. Whew! The fact that Byblos had 60% defenses from the culture bomb, and was on a hill, probably deterred him from attacking. (Toku had no catapults as yet.) He would not have captured any cities from me, but I would have had to build more units to fight him off. As it was, Toku and Caesar made peace at the first available opportunity, and I did so too. Antium was the only city that changed hands. I picked up a relations boost with Caesar, and a relations hit with Toku - as if THAT mattered!

Meanwhile, I had been building swords earlier to take a barb city in the northeast near Mansa Musa, but the Malinese tree-hugger got there before me and captured the city in 380AD. Argh! Nevertheless, I wasn't about to let him take that sweet spot (which had fish, crabs, and copper) without a fight. I built a spare settler, sent him up into the polar ice, and wedged a city into the tiny crack left between Mansa's settlements. Let me introduce you to the Ice Flipper!

This is, unquestionably, the weakest city I've ever founded. Seven tiles of pack ice, nine regular ice tiles, two tundra hills, one regular tundra, and the LUXURIOUS one coastal tile. But Ice Flipper doesn't need food, or shields, or commerce, or anything except a rude tent in which my Egyptians can huddle together for warmth. It's all about one thing: CULTURE, BABY!

The single tundra tile you see here had a forest on it, which I chopped with a worker and used to produce a theatre. With that theatre in tow, I can force an Artist specialist, holding this city permanently at size 1, while getting an amazing 10 culture/turn! (see the box on the left side above) Even here on Epic speed, I'll expand borders to level 3 in just 14 more turns, and that will begin putting cultural pressure on Sakae. A flip will be all but certain to follow. I tell you, Mansa's about to get even more of a cultural smackdown! You just can't DO these kind of things without Creative civs and their cheap theatres + inborn culture!

As far as the tech research above, after Civil Service I began pursuing Divine Right in order to bury the seventh and final religion. Mission accomplished in 860AD:

Take a good look at Islam above, because that's the last you're going to hear about it in this game.

A couple turns pass, and sure enough, Ice Flipper expands its borders again:

Wow, that *WAS* fast. Way to go, guys! Sakae quickly dropped to 0% culture, and then it was simply a matter of waiting for it to flip. Uh, don't hold your breath - Antium still hasn't flipped yet. (Anyone else think that it's too hard to flip cities in this game?!)

I thought that would be the last event of note before the 1000AD mark came around, but I managed to sneak in another wonder:

Oooh, Sistine's. Good for even more cultural fun. (Now Ice Flipper is up to 12 culture/turn!) And look which city built the wonder - little Alexandria, the junk city that could! As my top production city, I now converted Alexandria over to a longbow training facility, in order to improve the sad state of affairs on defense. I would rotate defensive units and missionaries from the city for a long time.

Even more news was made in these last couple turns of the first milennium AD: I discovered Philosophy and adopted Pacifism, FDR built the Colossus to go with his Great Lighthouse (a move I had been expecting for centuries now), and the best news of all - Caesar converted to Hinduism of his own accord! Guess those missionaries weren't a waste after all. With five civs now happily flying the Hindu banner, I was in tremendous shape.

Here's the map in the north:

Look at what I did to Mansa in this game. Poor guy. Timbuktu and Djenne were his only real cities with decent land, and the latter was culturally squeezed bigtime. Plus, I've already flipped Gao and am threatening to flip Sakae and Awdaghost. I was SO cruel to Mansa here, hehe. I mean, it's one thing to attack and raze cities - there's a certain brutal honesty in that. Here, I'm subverting Mansa's civ without him even realizing it - we're Friendly trading partners! Needless to say, this was all enormously entertaining to me.

The west, where Antium still continues to hold out. Look at how close I ended up getting to Beijing and Rome! It's going to be fun comparing notes with the other Egypt players on report day, that's for sure.

And finally the southeast. Probably less of interest here, but I'm adding it for comparisons to other games. Sal and Lizzie both got pretty badly squeezed. I'm going to guess that a lot of players who had those starts are going to be forced to fight their way out of difficult situations. (Going to be fun to see how everyone deals with the Malinese starts too! I'm sure it's no accident that the game's two Financial civs - Mansa and Liz - got some of the worst starting positions.) I also highlighted Caesar's conversion to Hinduism, in case you didn't notice it before. Not too often you see that many Hindu icons!

And the demographics from 1000AD. For once, I'm weak on GNP and production, but I am KILLING the AI elsewhere. And now that my economy is starting to roll into shape, that GNP number is just going to keep taking off. You'll see. Up to 1000AD, so far so good, but I'm still a long way away from victory. I not only have to pull more civs onto my side - I have to keep them there too! And we all know how easy it is to get those civs to vote for you...