Final Exam: Taking on Sid Difficulty

Having gotten a chance to try out everything else I was most interested in, I wrapped up my testing with an attempt to go after the greatest challenge of all: Sid Difficulty. I was unable to complete either of my games on that difficulty; one because I was in a hopeless position, the other because installing a later patch rendered the savefile unplayable (bah, should have realized that). I said at the start of the beta that I wouldn't be happy with Sid unless it was tough enough to beat me - badly - when I tried it. The results I think speak for themselves. Note: I did not write up MTRs for these games, so I've presented my turnlogs instead. They are a bit rough, but give a good indication of what I was thinking as I played.

Attempt #1

4000BC My huge game. Conquest-ONLY on Sid. Large map, 70% water pangea, standard climate everything. Sedentary barbs, 11 random AI opponents, standard AI aggression. Let's roll - this could take a while.

3950BC Settle this turn after moving to avoid wasting a bonus grassland. Initial build choice is another scout for this big map. Running no research to start, everything too expensive. Notice that the F10 spaceship screen no longer allows you to see all rivals at start of game. Cool.

3800BC Get a free warrior from a hut. Free explorer is nice.

3750BC Scout #2 build, ordering up a third one before the granary.

3700BC Meet Russia, who has a city literally six tiles from my capital. Ouch - could get messy. Trade Masonry + 15g for Bronze Working (ouch!)

3650BC Hut gives me maps (blah). In other news, I meet up with the Russian army; about 20 units in one stack. I have one conscript warrior. Mommy!

3550BC Third scout produced, starting on granary now. Meet Rome to the south, who refuses to make any deals. Get another warrior from a hut; I want a tech or settler!

3500BC Maps from a hut - even worse!

3450BC Washington hits size two. Surrounded on most sides by jungle and marsh, this game is looking like a real challenge.

3400BC Meet China and their dozen or so free units.

3150BC Meet Portugal. Unfortunately this does not help me make any trade deals... But AHA! Salvation comes in my northern scout meeting Korea. Wang lacks Masonry and has Alphabet, which I get for Masonry + 50g + 2gpt. Alphabet to Russia for Warrior Code and 39g. Warrior Code to Korea for Ceremonial Burial and 51g. Caught up in tech! (temporarily)

3100BC Chop a forest down so that my granary finishes one turn before growth instead of one turn after it. Considering I have no food bonuses in my starting position, I'm doing pretty damn good here.

3000BC Granary completes in Washington. Starting first settler now. Can't go too much faster without food bonuses.

2950BC Thanks to my trading and lack of researching, I am the #1 wealthiest nation in the world! Hehe, at least until someone demands it.

2900BC Meet the Ottomans, who also build the Colossus this turn (whee!) 80-shield wonders are easy to build. Osman is a bad boy and won't trade.

2850BC Get another free warrior from a hut. Not too bad, and they help with exploring, but 0 techs and 0 settlers. This will be a true test of Sid difficulty, no bonuses whatsoever.

2750BC Romans stretch way, WAY out from their civ to grab a city right next to my borders (sigh). You KNOW it's got a resource there. Nothing to do but plan around it. Settling 10 tiles away from their borders though - it really feels like the AI went out of its way to screw me.

2710BC First settler produced. Scrambling for a close overlapping location to make use of a cattle tile and claim the nearby silks. Not much good land here. Meet Japan in the east, Trade Tokugawa Alphabet + 91g for Iron Working. Trade China Iron Working for The Wheel. Sure enough, the Romans have poached the only horses within reach of my territory. No iron anywhere close by; not looking too good. Also meet India this turn and steal their 63g for Masonry (India is behind).

2670BC Further hemmed in by Russia and Roman settlers. My goodness, I hope I can get 5 cities!

2630BC Pop a hut... and get 25g. No help here.

2590BC New York founded! Only problem is that it overlaps quite a bit with Roman cities. I am almost out of room to settle, in 2590BC! Turn 29! Sid is *really* hard.

2470BC Another settler produced from Washington. This drops it back to size 1... but if I don't get out another settler *NOW*, there will be no land left to grab! Another hut pops... and I get maps. No luck here either.

2390BC Meet Spain. They are behind, but have no techs I can trade for. The AI is still running like a hawk, halfway through the Ancient Age techs at this point (12 techs discovered on turn 34 of the game). Obviously, I can't keep up.

2230BC Spain gets Mysticism, which I get from them (plus some gold) for The Wheel. Boston founded, an absolutely horrible seaside jungle town. BUT, it grabs dyes, doesn't overlap with any cities, and may prove useful down the road.

2190BC WHOA! I notice this turn that whipping gets me 40 shields, NOT 20 shields! Is this a design change or a bug? Back to the way things used to be, it seems. Well, I take advantage of it and whip a 36-shield temple. Also trade Spain Masonry for a worker, which I desperately need.

2110BC China completes Pyramids. Korea cascades to and completes Oracle.

2070BC Another settler built, who heads north to hopefully find a city site.

1990BC The bullying begins! Mao takes 31g. Thank you sir, may I have another.

1910BC Well, a not-so good brokerage opens but I have to take what I have. Mathematics from India for 220g + 12gpt. Math to Spain for Horseback Riding. Now I am behind on Writing on the visible techs - but of course many more past that. If only I could trade contacts, this would be much easier!

1830BC Netherlands appear out of nowhere. I trade them Math and Horseback Riding for Writing (!) and all their 72g.

1750BC Beat a Korean, Roman, and India settler to the last northern spot by one turn. Korea could have had it but got greedy and moved an extra turn. I have 4 cities, and there is NO room left to expand. Nada. Now the game really begins. Oh, and by the way, Spain has 13 cities on turn 50 of the game. That's mind boggling.

1600BC Further behind in tech now, but still not in last place. It moves so fast, and the prices are astronomically high.

1525BC Trade route connected to Rome, but my silks do not have enough value for a trade deal. Hopefully I can find a better customer soon. By the way, the AI has already hit the Middle Ages at this date, turn 59. Yeouch.

1350BC With my income returned to me, I begin dealing as best I can under these conditions. Literature from India for 142g + 16gpt. Now I am "close" to a deal for Code of Laws with Spain, so I send Literature to Netherlands (on the other side of the world and almost certainly unknown to Spain) for their 63g. This lets me purchase Code of Laws for Literature + 4gpt + 73g. Literature + Code of Laws to Japan for Map Making and their treasury of 68g. Literature to Portugal for Philosophy + 22g. I'm now three techs from the Middle Ages, and am still not last in tech. This continues to amaze me - I have 4 cities and pay 250% of the costs of the AI civs.

1075BC Finally get temples up in my northern cities. I have lost the cultural battles everywhere, even in New York where I went temple/granary/library. It is simply impossible to compete with 12-shield religious temples.

850BC I get my gold per turn back, but all of it plus my luxuries isn't even enough to buy the least expensive tech. I do not have enough land to compete; the advantages are too great and my starting position too poor to win this game. I'm actually quite proud I was able to keep up in tech through the ancient age.

* * * * *

After this unwinnable game, I decided to take a different approach to Sid. I was going to play up to 3000BC in each game and keep playing starts until I got one which was isolated from the other civs. There was simply no way to compete with an AI civ starting next to me. I also decided to play a large map with only 7 opponents so that there would be at least a little room for me to expand. The results of my second game after a number of rolled maps was as follows.

Attempt #2

4000BC New game, same concept as before. I want another shot at this. Same settings, but a map with only 7 AI rivals instead of 11 so that I will actually have enough room to expand. Get MUCH more breathing space to start than in the previous game.

3000BC Opening played out exactly the same as in the previous game. Built 2 scout to start, then started in on granary. Chopped a forest fur tile down to speed the granary so it completed a turn before growth rather than after it. Have already met Zulus and Celts, but found little in the way of trades. Now the settling race is on in full, and I aim to win it this time.

1625BC While my trading opportunities have been non-existent in this game and I am WAY behind on tech, I have grabbed a MUCH better share of land. My city placements are safe ones, and not likely to flip. I've got a good feeling about this game as long as I can hold on and not get attacked.

1150BC Several of the AI civs jumped into the Middle Ages this turn. Me? I still lack Bronze Working, hehe.

1050BC I planted my last city - and I got 11 of them! Now the Celts to my north have 24, but that's very much workable.

1000BC Loaded up the latest version of the game after installing next patch - only to find that the change to shields has made this game unplayable. Now that shields are actual cost instead of multiples of 10, trying to play a previous savefile is impossible (spears cost 2 shields instead of 20, due to the patching problem). Game cannot be played to completion. :(

There you have it, a pretty conclusive demonstration on how tough the Sid AI is. It has been beaten already, but only through what I would consider somewhat dubious tactics (most notably, playing on 80% water archipelagos which negate AI expansion). Sid will be conquered eventually, but it's not going to be easy. I am very pleased with the way it turned out; it'll be a real challenge taking down this one.

Now that I've described my testing efforts, I'll move on to discuss what has changed in greater detail, going step by step through what Conquests has to offer.