Realms Beyond Epic 22: Ancient War Bonanza

Well, this sounded like an unusual game to me when I first read the description. The game was all about ancient warfare, nothing but it in fact. Each player would have only a limited time, "fewer than 200 turns" in the words of Sirian, to try and conquer as many cities and civs as possible. To make it tougher, we would have only limited access to units; the game was modded in such a way so that the player could only build settlers, workers, scouts, warriors, archers, spears, chariots, catapults, galleys, and longbows. That's it. Call it the game of the 20-shield units, if you will. The scoring system for the game was designed to reward conquest as much as possible in the limited time available. So it was time to go out on the warpath and see just what I could do.

OK, but first some preliminary thoughts. 200 turns is not a lot of time, corresponding only to 850AD as the dates normally go in Civ3. Points were awarded for producing leaders (something the player has very little control over), and capturing/razing cities. Bonus points were awarded for wiping out each other civ, avoiding using the despotic whip, and a few other small things. Looking at the scoring system and the units available, I came up with a pretty simple plan for this game. I would build a few cities near my starting position and pack them in pretty tightly (this being a tiny map where corruption is rampant), then go to war. And I do mean go to war. No city would ever need any improvements beyond a barracks, just produce a rax and then crank units forever. Culture? Gold? Who needs it! The game won't last long enough for these massive deficiencies to catch up to me. The palace and any wonders I might leader rush would provide all the culture I would ever need. For that matter, I didn't ever expect to leave despotism in this game. As a non-religious civ, why would I spend a potential 7-8 turns in anarchy just to form a new government? 8 turns would be almost 5% of the entire total here! And with despotism I would have massive unit support for my army, plus the ability to whip units out of hopelessly corrupt cities, of which I expected to have many.

Speaking of units... I would only need a couple of them and could forget the rest. Settler and workers obviously, since no normal Civ3 game can be played without them. Scouts early on to find my opponents and warriors for some early military police. Galleys if I have enough time to attack the other continent (from the scoring rules, it was clear that the game would have two main continents). But for the most part, nothing but spears and archers, all the time, in a neverending stream. Chariots do get two movement points, but I wasn't about to spend twenty shields on a fast-moving warrior that can't even cross mountains or jungle! Archers, while slow, could at least have a reasonably good chance of winning against spears. And archers, moving in large stacks covered by a shield or two, would be almost as good as swords. Almost. Well, at least they're cheaper and don't require iron. For that matter, none of the units I could build would need iron, so I might as well pillage all roads on all irons to deny them to the AI civs. As for some of the other choices... Catapults? Too slow and too useless to do anything on offense. I can't have my offensive stalled because the darn things won't cross the mountains! Longbows? If I get them, but I don't expect the game will last that long. Archers do upgrade to them should I get that far, which was just another reason to go with massive quantities of the bowmen. Now enough thinking! Time to go out and hurt someone.

Here's the starting position after moving the worker and the scout, then founding on the starting tile. Since I didn't do so earlier, I should mention that the Iroquois were modified in this game to be militaristic and expansionist; they were no longer religious. That was good, because I intended to build a lot of barracks and no temples whatsoever. This was a very good starting position, on a river, with a grasslands wheat, and with bonus grasslands everywhere. I could really pack a couple of cities in here and use them to dominate the map, something that I think Sirian had in mind when he designed the map for this game. I started researching Bronze Working at max rate to start the game, since it was the only tech that I needed for the rest of the game.

I found the Americans right away, in 3500BC. No, that wasn't on turn 10 of the game, it was on turn FIVE, due to the changed dates for this game. If you've played a lot of Civ3 games, some of these dates will look very strange to you. I discovered Bronze Working 13 turns into the game, in 2700BC, and traded Warrior Code to America for Ceremonial Burial. Research went off forever, as I now had all of the technology that I would ever need. I didn't have any real use for gold in despotism, but I had even less reason to do research. England was contacted in 2000BC, and Elizabeth was a few techs up on me. She refused to trade anything for The Wheel or Alphabet, so I walked away with no deals. A goody hut popped in 2300BC yielded nothing, no luck there for the expansionist Iroquois.

My build order for the game had been a second scout, then a granary. Yes, I left my capital utterly exposed, but it was a risk I had to take with so little time available in this game. This was the only city that I would build a granary in, by the way. The granary finished in 2000BC, with a warrior and then a settler ordered up. The first settler was produced in 1580BC and sent to the southwest along the river to found a city three tiles away. That city, Niagra Falls, would take over control of the grasslands wheat at times from Salamanca and produce a stream of workers for my cities. The third settler was produced in 1280BC and went to found another overlapping city to the northwest to grab several more bonus grasslands. These cities were no more than 3 or 4 tiles away, and already were suffering a good 30 to 40% corruption; wow, corruption really sucks on tiny maps! Players who tried to build a lot of cities and improve them with courthouses/markets may find that everything beyond a short distance is all but useless on tiny maps. At least under despotism; but I think that by the time any non-first ring cities became productive, the game's time would be almost up. In any case, I founded Allegheny to the southeast in 620BC, followed by Cattaraugus to the northeast in 440BC and that was it. 5 cities founded by me, all that I would ever need. Here's the picture of my corner of the world at that time, in 440BC:

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Now that's what I call a farmer's gambit! Risking a lot to try and get a lot. And it almost worked too, but the Americans had settled aggressively nearby and were ready to call my bluff. A few turns later, before I could rally my military and get spears into all of my cities, they came after me with warriors. Nothing more than warriors, but even they can walk into an undefended city. Not wanting war and desperate for even 5 more turns to build up my forces, I made the painful choice to abandon Allegheny in 80BC rather than let the Americans autoraze it. This set my efforts back quite a bit, and although I would eventually rebuild the city, my civ made due with the other four cities you see in the above picture for much of the game rather than the 5 that I had planned. I should not have left it so open. Here is the picture detailing the american attack:

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The sad thing is that even one more turn would have given me a warrior there and a decent shot to defend the city. Ah well, them's the breaks sometimes. I overreached and paid the price for it. But the painful cost had bought me a few turns that I badly needed to prepare for war. Those slow-moving warriors turned around and headed for Cattaraugus next, but did so too late. I produced a couple of spears and archers and was now ready for them. When the Americans flooded into my territory this time, in 280AD, I asked them to leave and got a declaration of war. The game was now well and truly afoot for the first time!

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The first thing I did was use my archers to kill off the warriors that threatened me. That was not too difficult, as I had the advantage of being able to use the roads in my territory to outrun them. The fact that I had twice the attack power and the same defensive power as those weak warriors didn't hurt either. One archer was exchanged for about an average of three warriors, a clear advantage on the shields involved to me. My cities were safe by about 500AD, but I didn't have enough archers to risk attacking one of the American cities, so a number of turns flew by as I prepared my offensive. England jumped into the war against me as well in 640AD, a bad sign but not too threatening considering the distance to England. Finally, in 820AD I had gathered up about 4 or 5 archers and could assault the American city of Boston. It was captured pretty easily, despite being on a hill and defended by a spear (defense 3.5 in that situation). First blood in the war (not counting Allegheny) to me!

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With the first city taken (and two points added to my score), it was time to see what else I could take before signing peace. And there was no doubt that I needed to take peace, as I wasn't strong enough at this point to push on and take out all of America. New York seemed like the best target, as it was not only reasonably accessible to my forces but also controlled the entire American iron supply. Iron = bad in this game for me. New York was defended no better than Boston, and by this time I had more forces ready to take it. The city, being size 1, was also unfortunately autorazed though. *sigh*

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At that point in time, Abe was willing to sign peace with me, and I was in a mood to agree to his request. I got Map Making and 225g for peace, and signed a straight-up peace deal with the English at the same time. Why peace at this point? For all my gains, I still only had 4 cities, and unit support costs were killing me. The fact that the American cities I had attacked had both been auto-razed had not helped me. I needed to build more cities at this point, first to fill in the open space and cut down on the barb attacks that continued to pester me, and secondly to increase my unit support to drive down my costs. I also needed to build a road to America so that my reinforcements would get there quickly, and thus set up a supply chain. There was plenty for me to do over the next twenty turns of peace; the only question was whether I would have enough time remaining to clear out my continent of opponents.