1300BC     Landgrab: Fighting for a Decent Core of Cities

As I mentioned on the last page, I had just traded for the world map of my surroundings. The lack of any other civs around me was both a blessing and a curse, as it provided me with plenty of room for cities at the expense of getting nailed by barbarians. I began trading world maps every turn, both to pick up an extra gold or two and to reveal the location of the barb camps. Even so, I sacked only 2 camps the whole game. It was the AI civs who eventually took care of the barbs for me, as the Aztecs, Egyptians, and Chinese sent lots of warriors into the wilderness to destroy their camps. In the end, it was this and not any action I took that ended the barbarian threat.

By 800BC, the barbarian threat was virtually over. Roaming bands of foreign warriors and archers were killing camps whenever they popped up, since the AI always knew where they are. I was now engaged in a life-or-death struggle to secure enough land to stand a chance in the game. I'm putting up here the post-game replay from 975BC, which shows the position of all civs at the beginning of the landgrab (though of course there was no contact with the other continent at this time):

You can see I was very far behind the other civs at the time (I was even further behind in terms of culture). The other continent was completely settled at this point, a scary thought. Good thing I didn't know that at the time. But there was a lot of land still unclaimed around me, so I bent all my efforts to securing those areas before settlers from the other civs could get them.

My primary competition was from the Chinese, who had already run out of land to grab near their starting position and were ferrying settlers across the water to the east coast of my penninsula. The Aztecs, Egyptians, and Indians were occupied with dividing up the useless jungle in the middle of the continent. Most of that jungle was never cleared out, and I doubt those cities ever amounted to anything. But I was just glad they weren't coming after my land.

On a large map, it's absolutely necessary to get a large core of cities, because otherwise it's simply impossible for the player to have enough money to buy techs at the more expensive large-map costs. This was my progess in 800BC:

Let me give a few notes on these early city placements. Roma was my capital city of course; the name comes from the fact that "Rome" in Latin is spelled "Roma." Of course, this meant that every time I founded a city the game would suggest "Rome" as the name for it, so I started picking my own names pretty early on. Veii was the second city I founded, put there to use the grassland wheat tile. It produced a lot of settlers in this part of the game, and served as a fishing town later, since it had few shields. Caesarea was my third city, plopped down in that location to avoid getting sacked by barbarians. Milanodunum was supposed to go 2 tiles northeast, on the river, but had to go where it did to avoid getting hit by barbarians. Amusingly, that poorly placed city would be one of my best cities later on.

Cattletown was a city that got hit by barbarians endless times coming down from the northern wilderness. It was almost worthless for most of the early game, but became my #1 city as the game progressed. It hardly looks impressive at this point though. Why did I put a city where Desert Waste is and not in the much better land to the north and east? Because that was a settler that had to be sent out unescorted, and those areas were not safe from barbarians at all. So I claimed the area in the desert, and turned Desert Waste into a nice fishing town later in the game. Dyetown got the dyes for me, and JUST before that Chinese settler was going to claim them. That's the reason why I founded there and not 1 tile further east; the Chinese settler would have founded a city if I had moved again. All I cared about was Dyetown getting the dyes, which it did for me. And I really, really used those luxuries later.

I was so preoccupied with settling land, I was building just about no military whatsoever. If someone made a demand of me, I got down and kissed their feet. Please don't hurt me, Mr. Montezuma! This wasn't a "smoke and mirrors" defense, it was a tattered piece of cloth trying to hold back floodwaters! Several times, Egyptian or Aztecan warriors walked right by my undefended cities (including my capital) without attacking. I was pushing the farmer's gambit to its limits, because if I didn't I had no chance to win the game.

With no military to speak of, I didn't even get the chance to explore the northern part of my penninsula. A world map trade finally revealed that there was a solitary wine luxury up there. What was THAT doing there? In any case, I diverted a settler towards it. Through a complete stroke of luck, I got to the site 1 turn before the Chinese landed a settler there by ship:

I was pretty relieved at that. Since I won the race by one turn, and the city was founded on wines, I named it "Happiness". ;) Here was my progress up to 350BC:

I'll give some comments on this map as well. I didn't want Barbville to be in its location at all, but it was there or lose the settler to a barbarian horseman. I'll choose a bad location to losing a settler any day. Tundra Hills had a nice location, and with a courthouse could get some decent production. The fact that iron appeared near it (I settled before I had iron working) was a bonus. Iron City had a nice little location too, but it wasn't on the river unfortunately (it was originally named "Not on River" until I got iron working). I knew that and still put it there anyway, since it was a good location. Spacefiller was just that: an essentially useless city that I put in the hopes of getting a resource there. Southtown was in a great location, on a river and with floodplains nearby. It provided lots of workers for my civ over the years.

Maybe I should say something about resources here. There were no horses anywhere near the starting point, but I had no fewer than 3 sources of iron under my control. That opened up some interesting trading possibilities later on; someone out there had to be needing iron. And with luck there would be some saltpeter and oil in the deserts I controlled, resources I had no use for except to trade awy for techs.

The landgrab phase was essentially over in 50BC, when I founded my last city for a long time. I built a harbor in 10BC that opened up a trade route to the other civs. Now a new phase of the game began: trading everything I possibly could in a long struggle to catch up on tech.