Passive-Aggressive Hatty

Shortly after the crossover to AD years, my cultural gameplan paid off with my first flip!

Excellent, Memphis truly dished out some cultural smackdown. Tokyo never accumulated any culture of its own, and with such a poor location the flip was only a matter of time. Since I already had the Narrows completely blocked by my culture, and I didn't exactly have the finances for another city, I chose to reject the flip and watch Tokyo burn to the ground:

"Tokyo has revolted and joined the Egyptian Empire!" Huh? What Tokyo? Tokyo does not exist, Tokyo NEVER existed. I even got a free archer out of the deal, woohoo! If you compare the two pictures, you'll also see the savings from rejecting this city, a full 10 gold per turn. Seriously, I can't just accept every tundra city that wants to join my civ - I'm not made out of money here, people!

I did get Literature while researching at a major deficit, but once that tech finished it was back to sitting at 0% science until I could swing another deal with the AIs. I had actually spent a fair amount of time wondering whether to go for Literature or Drama first, but ultimately I decided on Literature because 1) it's considerably cheaper and 2) I wanted to get the Great Library built and some Great Scientists generated. Memphis had more production than any other city, plus marble on hand, so it became the obvious choice for the wonder. Another wonder's culture to push against Kyoto wouldn't hurt either!

How do you get out of the kind of budget crisis I was in? Trading can work miracles, but nothing beats the whip:

-10 maintenance costs? Sounds like a good time to "encourage" the people in hurrying along a courthouse. As I whipped courthouses in the west (after first whipping granaries, of course), my civ began the slow and painful process of economic recovery. Think of it as a Marshall Program for the Middle Ages.

Now I had the land route to the area around my capital blocked off, but I knew there was a coastal route that AI galleys could reach by sailing through Caesar's land in the extreme south. After founding cities on that peninsula in the southwest, Caesar managed to ferry one of his settlers over to my side of the Narrows. I had to act quickly before I was deluged with AI settlers in *MY* land! Caesar may have gotten his spot, but I was able to JUST stop Napoleon in time from planting another city:

El-Amarna effectively blocks off the coastal path to the east, since galleys can't travel through ocean tiles and I wasn't about to give Napoleon Open Borders! But notice how close it was, I literally made it here in the very nick of time to stop the French settler. Granted, it wouldn't have been the end of the world to have another city show up here, but it wouldn't have helped matters either! Best of all, El-Amarna was only three tiles away from Ravenna. Once I get my workers to improve this city, it'll be time for a further cultural push against an isolated colony.

My economy looks awful in the above picture, but I managed to reach Drama shortly after 400AD. How was that possible? I traded something to Napoleon for Currency tech (not sure what it was; I think it may have been Alphabet), and that allowed me to send some really outdated stuff to Toku and Temujin for gold. Several turns of 100% science then knocked out Drama.

That was a CRITICAL tech for this variant, opening up cheap half-cost Creative theatres (and the Artist specialists that they enable). One of the neat things about being Creative is that a single forest chop is enough to complete a theatre, so the first thing I would do with each new city was to chop one out. With the inherent Creative trait plus Stonehenge, that's worth 6 culture/turn immediately off the bat - easily enough to dominate most border disputes this early in the game. I can't stress enough how helpful getting those cheap theatres into play ASAP is for this kind of variant! One of the things that I felt was a mistake in the Culturemongers SG was their late acquisition of Drama; they didn't have it on hand until almost 1100AD! I had my theatres in play by 500AD at the latest in every city, and it was the FIRST thing chopped in every new city after that. They also did not get Currency until 1154AD; having it much earlier in this game was hugely helpful in terms of selling techs to fuel deficit research. I hope these comparisons will help illustrate what I was doing differently in this game to try and improve upon their earlier pathbreaking performances.

Napoleon unfortunately founded Taoism in 395AD, but since I had five self-founded religions on hand, that was less important than it otherwise might have been. More importantly, I landed this nice wonder a few turns later:

The culture and science from the Great Library were nice, but what I really wanted was some Great Scientists. Their ability to lightbulb certain techs (Philosophy, Education) would help speed me towards Liberalism, which was the main goal at the moment. (Free Speech provides +100% culture, remember.) Here's what the world looked like in 500AD:

Generally speaking, not a huge amount of progress has been made, but my cities are culturally dominant everywhere and making good inroads against the AIs. I already have more than half the land I need to win (!), with a significant amount of territory still unsettled, so things are looking up in that area too. If you look at Memphis and Heliopolis, you'll see that I have two more marble-enhanced wonders at work now too. I was building Parthenon simply because I could, not out of any need, but Sistine was very important to land. The extra culture from ALL specialists is hugely helpful for this sort of game! And since I had popped Theology tech with a Great Prophet in BC years, then refused to trade away Theology afterwards, I was able to get a huge headstart on the wonder and ensure that I would land it. Again, THAT'S why you don't need to be Industrious for this variant. If you lightbulb Theology the way you should, there's plenty of time to get a jump on Sistine before the AI has a chance to steal it!

My next city went in the unclaimed land between Thebes and El-Amarna, filling the last gap in which AI settlers could potentially slip through:

They'll need galleons to get around my cultural blockade now, and I'll have all the land sewed up long before the AI can get to Astronomy. As far as Hieraconpolis itself though, I actually misplaced this city. It should have gone one tile north in order to put cultural pressure on Edo more directly. Don't know what I was thinking here... Ah well, I'm certainly far from perfect!

After researching Music (which I did get first and claim the free Great Artist), I began researching Civil Service next en route to Liberalism. You can see that above in the last screenshot. The Great Library paid off in 605AD with a Great Scientist, which I used to lightbulb Philosophy. That tech was somewhat meaningless at the moment, but it would help clear the way to Liberalism once I had Education. As far as the Great Artist himself, I settled him in my aggressive city on the Mongolian border:

As both the Culturemongers and Ruff correctly deduced in their games, a settled Great Artist is a much better long-term payoff for cultural push than using him for a culture bomb. The Great Work is better in areas with no culture or very small amounts of it, but the Great Artist super-specialist is better at dealing with well-established borders, which was clearly the case here. And frankly, I could actually use the 3 gold/turn too!

During the following few centuries, relatively little of interest took place. I built the Parthenon in 710AD and Sistine in 935AD, but mostly my cities were working on various cultural infrastructure projects while I slowly researched Civil Service, then Paper. Once I stopped founding cities on the other side of the world, my economy also recovered nicely (thanks in large part to all those whipped courthouses). By 1000AD, I was back to sustainble research at 50% science; Bureaucracy civic was a major asset here, as I had Thebes fully cottaged and it was providing a huge amount of gold for my civ.

Memphis produced its second Great Scientist a little after 1000AD, and once I finished researching Paper, I put him to good use:

Well that takes care of 3/4 of Education's beaker cost. See, THIS is why you build the Great Library - so you can knock out Philosophy and Education quickly! The faster I get to Liberalism and Free Speech civic, the better shape I'll be in. Way to go Socrates!

By the way, note that we can actually SEE Kyoto for the first time above. Getting a wee bit cramped in there, aren't we Toku? Things have come a long way from when I had to tiptoe around the northern coast just to pass Toku's borders!

After sitting at 0% culture for ages on end, Caesar's colony in the far east revolted for the first time in 1025AD. Then I got lucky on the dice rolls, and it flipped for good in 1085AD!

Alright, second flip of the game, let's keep 'em coming! Once again I ruthlessly burned the city to the ground, this time so that I could refound the city in a better location. One of the things I noticed in both Ruff's game and in the Culturemongers SG was that they tended to keep the AI cities after flips in almost every case. Well, unless the city happened to be in EXACTLY the right tile, I wasn't going to be doing that here! Ravenna is five tiles away from Edo; if I keep this city, I won't be able to squeeze in another city to the north. Far better to burn the city down and then replace it with a closer spot that adds more pressure! As it was, I screwed up a bit and put my own city on the yellow dot. I should have put it on the yellow circle, which would be the minimum three-tile distance from Edo. Hindsight is 20/20, of course...

Don't be afraid to burn down those AI cities. It may be Always Peace, but it's still DOMINATION!

Another huge boost came in 1160AD, when I finished my Forbidden Palace in Heliopolis:

If ever there was a civ that needed a Forbidden Palace in Civ4, surely it was this one! I'm back up to 60% science and researching at a pretty good clip. Now the reason why I have the spices tile circled above is due to the fact that I've benefitting from the Calendar "loophole", in which I can still use Calendar resources without having the tech as a result of culturally acquiring plantations built by the AI civs! Since Heliopolis was a bit food-poor, that spices resource was a help just in terms of its tile yield. I had similarly grabbed dyes from Caesar in the jungle south, which was a huge help considering all my theatres everywhere.

I reached Liberalism in 1226AD and selected Nationalism with the free tech:

I often think that people take the default option of Nationalism due to a lack of creativity, but in this case it was CLEARLY the right place to go! I was on a drastic beeline to Liberalism here, lacking even such basic techs as Monarchy, Construction, and Metal Casting (another reason why Industrious wasn't so hot - still no forges yet!) But I strongly feel that was the right way to go. I didn't NEED any of those other techs; what I needed was Free Speech civic, and I needed it as soon as humanly possible. With all my cities doubling in cultural output overnight, I was about to ramp up my cultural push into the AI cores in rapid fashion. The Culturemongers didn't get to Liberalism until 1544AD, and I felt that was one of the weaknesses of their game (getting too distacted pursuing wonders and extra religions rather than shooting for Liberalism ASAP). We'll see here how my particular take on this issue plays out.

Now the question at this point becomes: when do you turn off research and simply run all culture, all the time? I strongly believe that there are two other important techs to obtain after Liberalism: Democracy and Banking. Democracy opens up Universal Suffrage (helpful for rushing buildings), but mostly it enables Emancipation civic. DOUBLE-SPEED cottage growth! Since the vast majority of culture in the late game is going to come from cottages, growing them into towns is a matter of enormous priority. Emancipation civic lets you get those new cultural push cities up to speed very quickly; I can't imagine trying to do this without it. Banking has the advantage of being relatively cheap and unlocking Mercantilism civic, for a free Artist in every city. If you're not going to sign Open Borders with the other civs, that's the no-brainer economic civic to be running. So before I could turn off research permanently, I still had to research those last couple techs. Ruff's mistake in his game was to research far PAST these techs, going all the way up to Electricity and Mass Media for the wonders located there. Frankly, it's just not worth it to go that deep into the tree, AND you have to research Scientific Method to get there - which obsoletes monasteries! Not good. I'm sure that there's further refinement possible in this area in terms of the tech path, but that's my take on it, and I'm sticking to it.

Anyway, here's the world in 1250AD:

My cultural "dagger" in the west is widening, and I've started to fill in some more cities on the east coast in unclaimed territory. Toku... is in trouble. Still a ways to go, but I'm making noticeably more cultural progress since adopting Free Speech. Go on to the next page for more.