Apolyton Demogame: Race to the Cape


Over by our starting position, we had indeed made good on our claim to Pink Dot, hopefully staking a permanent claim to the disputed southern region. While we had been focused on escorting the settler down to Pink, one of our extra scouts had been clearing out the fog around the Imperio capital. We were lucky enough to get close and gain visibility on Imperio's capital of Mutal:

Ummm... I think Zeviz summed it up best with this dry remark:

Zeviz:
Imperio's land looks not much better than ours... but only to a mapmaker who doesn't realize that Hunting and Mining are much earlier techs than Calendar and Monarchy.

I, on the other hand, was swearing a blue streak in our private forums. Remember, our capital of Airstrip One came with a grassland cow and a single wines resource. Imperio's capital of Mutal had quadruple floodplains tiles, a plains cow, a gold resource, and (as we would find out later) iron on the hill right next to the gold! Then in the third ring there was a marble resource, more gold, quintuple furs to the northeast, plus five more seafood clumped together in the water. Oh, and check out the GRASSLAND gold resource to the northwest of Mutal. Gold is the strongest happiness resource in the game (can be hooked up immiedaitely with Mining, never expires, doubles with Forges, has a crazy +7 commerce yield). One of the few ways it is balanced is by only appearing on tiles with no food, plains and desert. But I guess that didn't bother Cybershy, the map maker, who couldn't even be bothered to disguise his obvious map edits...

It became clear with time that Cybershy had decided to group the happiness resources, giving each team most of the world's control over one or two of them. This wasn't a bad idea in theory, and it would have worked in Civ3 (where all of the happy resources were pretty much interchangeable). Only problem is that in Civ4, the happiness resources are wildly divergent in terms of strength; a team that starts with gold and furs can hook them up immediately, grow their cities to larger sizes, plus get major benefits from the tile yields themselves. Wait until you see what those gold resources would do to Imperio's early teching, for example.

So the clumping of happiness resources unbalanced the starts from the very outset. Realms Beyond (with wines and silks) got lumped into the "loser" category of resources, along with the poor Templars (sugar and dyes). Imperio was the runaway winner here (gold and furs), while PAL similarly benefitted from having a monopoly on the world's supply of ivory (which was a catastrophic failure of game design - how can you give a single team quintuple ivory and give none to anyone else?!) As we will see, PAL and Imperio rode these early game advantages into dominant positions later, while the remaining four teams struggled to keep pace.

Things only got worse when Imperio settled their second city of Lakamha on T49:

Now that is just ridiculous: Lakamha sits in a double river valley, grabbing irrigated corn, irrigated wheat, horses, stone, yet ANOTHER grassland gold resource, plus no fewer than six hills for production. Easily one of the best locations I've ever seen. Imperio had also already built Stonehenge, chopping it out on T36 before working on their first settler. They were clearly off to a monster start, with their ungodly fertile terrain. How exactly was this fair again?!

Our strength as a team at this point was our continued C&D stat-crunching. Knowing where we stood with the other teams allowed us to make informed decisions, as well as ferreting out the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents. mostly_harmless and I were tracking the score increases, city foundings, tech discoveries, and overall GNP, Food/Production, and Power ratings of the other teams. Here is one such example of a chart I prepared:

This is the "Power" bar graph from the Demographics screen. By measuring its progress turn by turn, we could see the exact Soldier Count rating for each of Realms Beyond, Templars, and Imperio on each turn of the game. Then, working backwards from these numbers and combining it with other info gathered by mostly_harmless, we evaluated what the other teams had built and researched so far. And by knowing what the others had done in the past, we could usually predict their next moves in the future, and react accordingly. This Power graph was particularly noteworthy, as it allowed us to know what units the other teams had. Our own rating here is largely illusory, driven by RB research into techs like Archery (which grants 6000 points). But the other teams didn't know that, and thus it looks like we had a much larger army than we did - allowing Realms Beyond to bluff in situations like with Pink Dot. We knew that Templars had a total of four quechuas, and Imperio still had nothing but their starting warrior. With certainty that no one was planning to rush our team, and virtually the entire starting continent mapped out by our scouts, we had a great idea of what was going on in the game. Knowledge was power for our team!

Diplomatically, discussion with Templars wasn't going anywhere, as both sides parsed words over the negotiation of a "border agreement" (which will be discussed further in more detail). Imperio wasn't saying much of anything, with the language barrier inhibiting communiations. However, we had some successes as far as dealing with PAL, the "yellow civ" across the narrow water barrier on the eastern continent. Amazingly, our team was actually PAL's first contact in the west, despite starting the furthest away from them! (Never doubt the importance of early scouting.) We floated the idea of exchanging some map information and possibly trading techs later, getting a favorable response back:

PAL to Realms Beyond:
Hi Realms Beyond Team

The people of PAL are delighted to meet your fine civilization. We think it be a big boost for both teams if we start coordinating research, to minimize duplication. Also we could give each other information regarding, the positions of other teams. All this is subject to further discussions, but would you guys like to work with us to progress both nations? We believe working with you guys makes sense, as there is no military threat. Often swapping technology with your neighbors can be as much of a danger as it can be a benefit.

whiplash

This was a nice start to what we hoped would be a strategic partership. As teams on different continents, we had little reason to be in conflict, and every reason to work together against our mutual enemies. Our team was researching towards Iron Working, having little choice due to our no-horses, no-copper start. We suggested trading Iron Working to PAL in exchange for something on their end. whiplash got back to us, suggesting that we send them Iron Working and Sailing for Alphabet, which balanced out perfectly in beaker count. But that would leave us having to research a lot of techs before the trade could be made, so after a further round of negotiating, our teams settled on this:

Realms Beyond to PAL:
whiplash,

Tech Trade Offer
IW + Sailing <==> Alphabet

The team has discussed your trade offer and have run into a technical difficulty. We looked at the techs both teams would be required research for the initial offer and they were equal in beakers (thus approximately equal in research turns). However, for us to trade for alphabet, we would have to research writing and thus delaying the tech trade that we are currently discussing (IW+S for A).

We have discussed it internally had couldn't find a satisfactory solution to this. The best we could come up with is shown below. Can you team suggest a better solution?

Best Option
Archery(80) + a tech to be named later(?) <==> Writing (120)

IW + Sailing <==> Alphabet

(Note that the costs in brackets are the base beaker costs found in the XML file)

Comments / Suggestions / Feedback?

Ruff
Your Voice to the Realms Beyond Team

Which was accepted by PAL. We had our first tech trade lined up! And better yet, with a team that posed no initial threat to our civilization. Although we weren't making much diplomatic progess with Templars or Imperio, at least we were having some success with someone else.

Even though we had no visibility on PAL or anything on their continent, we could tell solely from the C&D numbers that they were shaping up to be the monster opponent in this game. PAL was the first team in the game to settle a second city (T34), and the first to three cities (T47), and the first to four cities (T57). In fact, PAL settled their fourth city only two turns after Templars settled their SECOND city! (Yeah, that Templar opening was a wee bit on the slow side... ) This was reflected in the C&D numbers, as PAL whipped their food-heavy start over and over again for more workers and settlers. We knew that they had virtually no military whatsoever, running a pure Farmer's Gambit for max growth. Our team would have liked to do the same, but we just didn't have enough food at our capital to make whipping very useful.

This was the chart that had me worried the most:

The Food bar graph is one of the best early-game indicators of success. PAL had more cities than anyone else, was growing the fastest, and turning that food into shields via liberal use of the whip. It was a dangerous combination, made worse by PAL's monopoly on ivory and therefore future War Elephants, but there was very little that our team could do about it...

It was about this time that sooooo took his leave of serving as Turnplayer, and our planned replacements (Zeviz and Ruff) found that they lacked the time to take over. Somewhat to my own surprise, I therefore found myself assuming the reigns of the Demogame team, moving the units and playing the turns. This would last without interruption for the following eight months... I can't say I regret it, but damn, that was a lot of work sometimes!

Domestically, we had grown our capital to size 4 (in order to work the cows and three hill mines) and then began training another settler. Our two workers were spending their time improving Pink Dot's very nice resources and building (well, starting anyway) the long road back to the capital. The new settler headed to the only strong location near Airstrip One, the coastal spot to the west:

Christened China Beach at Ruff's suggestion, this would be our first coastal city. As it turn out, the work boats that we built out of here would later go on to fulfill a critical scouting role.

Meanwhile, another issue had cropped up with the Templars, as a barb city appeared in the deep south, between Pink Dot and Jerusalem:

We were less than pleased about this; if the Templars were to get a free city down there, it would be a major longterm threat to the safety of Pink Dot. Not to mention, we had hoped that the border expansions from Pink (thanks to Creative trait) would allow us to seal off the south from the Templars, and allow our team to clean up this area while forcing them to the east - and into conflict with Imperio for the land over there. With no forces available to raze the barb city ourselves, we tried talking over the situation with the Templars:

Realms Beyond to Templars:
Greetings Templars:

I'm sorry to hear about Aidun. Please pass on my concerns and wish him a speedy recovery. Also, RB would like to congratulate Templars on founding Constantinople.

The RB have been watching your units and accept that they are currently watching the RB movements. At the moment, it seems that this dual observation will continue. Naturally, the RB team would prefer non-military observers (scouts) instead of the archer killers currently utilized.

The RB team appreciate your pledge regarding not expanding in the contested region. I expect that you will have noticed the new Barbarian City that popped in the 'buffer zone' between RB and yourself. I've been asked to contact you regarding your intentions vis--vis said city. Since the city is located in this zone, we are not planning to capture it in the foreseeable future, but we might send a unit (maybe 2) to absorb barbarian incursions likely to originate from it.

What are the Templar's thoughts regarding this city?

Ruff
Your Voice to the Realms Beyond Team

Since we were in a weak bargaining position here, Ruff's message opened up the negotiating by simply asking what the Templars planned to do, and suggesting that we might send some archers into the area to deal with barbarian units. (This was also fairly disingenous, as we had no archers to spare for that purpose at all!) The genius of this message was referring to the area east of Pink Dot as a "buffer zone", a passively-aggressive turn of phrase considering that the area was literally right next to Jerusalem! Yet once again, the Templars backed off from any kind of confrontation, and gave us exactly the news we were looking for:

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Hi Ruff,

Thank you for your best wishes for Aidun, they have been passed on. We too feel that communication between our teams is key to maintaining a good relationship. On that note, there are once again a number of issues to address.

Observers and scouts
Regarding your concerns about our military observers, we feel that because a combination of factors we can now alleviate those by moving them further from your borders. These factors are:

(1) Our mutual agreement to not expand in the contested border region;
(2) The added security that immediate access to Constantinople's strategic resources now provides us;
(3) The fact that Jerusalem's borders will expand in two turns which will give us comparable line of sight to what the southern Quechua sentinels provided without the military threat that comes with them.

We may still maintain a military presence in the extreme south (around the site of the Barbarian city) and north (in the area between Constantinople and your capital's south-eastern border), but should remain well clear of your current borders and road.

We would also like to continue to explore those parts of our landmass that we haven't fully mapped yet (i.e. north of your capital) so there may be continued contact between some of our Quechua scouts and your units and borders (mostly in the narrow passage between your capital's eastern border and the water that separates your land from Imperio's, but possibly also near your third city depending on exactly where and when you found(ed) it). This will only concern one or at most two of our units though and will be temporary, so we hope your team won't regard it as much of a threat.

Barbarian city
Yes, we did notice the Barbarian city and have already dispatched a Quechua to it to investigate, we found the city of Harappan there sitting on top of the Stone resource, currently size 1 and guarded by 2 Warriors.

Our feelings are that that city being in our buffer zone is a potential threat to our relationship and it's therefore best to destroy it. Its location right on top of the stone isn't optimal anyway, even if it wasn't in disputed territory we wouldn't want to capture and keep it, so razing it is the only option in our view. There might be some benefit in keeping it around for a while to milk it for experience points, but as noted the threat that one of us might take it without consulting the other could form a continuous dark cloud over our relationship, which in our opinion isn't worth it for a few XP points.

In the spirit of building trust between our teams, we would like to propose a joint military operation to attack and destroy that city: with 1 or 2 of your units and 1 or 2 of ours taking the city would be a piece of cake. The spoils of war resulting from the capture could be shared equally between our teams, with the provision that if one of us loses more units than the other that should be compensated for in the distribution (perhaps a 33-67 split would be the simplest way to settle that? A small, undeveloped city like that isn't likely to either yield much gold or require much sacrifice to eliminate anyway).

Imperio, Border Agreement and beyond
It seems we're in agreement that at least a three-way border agreement and hopefully also other three-way treaties, especially a joint research plan, is the ideal situation for us all. As stated before, we feel it is critical, and in all three teams' best interests, that we work together to reach the New World as soon as possible. To that end we would like to share with you the correspondence we recently sent to Imperio (via PM on Apolyton to X_MiTH_X), which I added to the bottom of this message. They responded to this very promptly that they were discussing it -- a marked improvement over previous attempts to communicate. We will inform you of their full response when we get it.

As noted, we very strongly prefer to work out a three-way alliance between our teams, but should that not work out for whatever reason (whether due to poor communications or unwillingness on Imperio's part), we would be more than happy to work out an agreement without them. If it comes down to a two-way alliance we would certainly prefer establishing one with your team rather than with Imperio.

Wouter
Interim Diplomatic Liaison of the Knights Templar

The key phrase there was, "Our feelings are that that city being in our buffer zone is a potential threat to our relationship and it's therefore best to destroy it. Its location right on top of the stone isn't optimal anyway, even if it wasn't in disputed territory we wouldn't want to capture and keep it, so razing it is the only option in our view." In other words, Templars were going to raze that location without us so much as lifting a finger! Wow. Total success, from our point of view. They didn't even ask for any concessions from us. If the goal was to build relations with our team, it was certainly a nice gesture, but not very smart from a strategic point of view.

Note also the discussion about "border agreements" in the above section. I've mostly been skipping over this subject, which occupied endless pages of discussion and emails going back and forth between our teams. Realms Beyond took the stance of letting the borders form up naturally, based on where each team chose to plant their settlers. This favored us, as we were actually building settlers instead of fooling around with religions! Templars wanted a full agreement about who could settle where, before anyone actually went so far as to found cities. These were two incompatible viewpoints, and thus we were going around in circles endlessly without achieving much.

However, stalling the Templars in neverending circles of dialogue was to our strategic benefit. We were slowly getting stronger as time passed, with our edge in food and production. The Templars would never be as strong as they were in the early game, with quechuas on the board and our own Realms Beyond team lacking copper + horses! So long as we were patient and kept talking with their team, showing signs of goodwill as much as possible, we were confident that we could ride out our weakish start. That's not to say we were determined to attack Templars later - we weren't, although it was an option that might become attractive eventually - but the goal was to put Realms Beyond in a position where we would be much stronger than the Templars by the midgame. And that meant stalling and playing their circular word games for the moment.

Then our scout Sharon, on her return trip back from exploring Imperio lands, defogged the last two tiles that we had missed earlier. Guess what turned out to be on those two tiles?

Oh look, a horse resource and a copper resource, right on the only two tiles that we didn't uncover. Un-freakin-believable! Apparently these were supposed to be "our" resources. Too bad that Cybershy was off smokin' crack when this map was put together! Notice that there is a run of four coastal tiles (which we dubbed the Fjord), then a peak tile, then a lake tile, and then a wide stretch of desert all blocking off these resources from our capital. Sure, it may be close as the crow flies, but in practical terms the copper was 11 tiles away from Airstrip One - and a mere 7 tiles from Mutal. We had already done a song and a dance to secure the Pink Dot location in the extreme south. Were we now going to have to do it again, working around crazy terrain obstacles, just to secure our own source of strategic resources? And such an action would surely anger Imperio. Did we really want to settle aggressively towards BOTH teams on our continent, each of whom had early resource-less unique units?!

Well, never let it be said that our team isn't an ambitious bunch. I made the case for going after this location, then asked for reaction from the rest of the team. Here was the result:

Sullla:
Guys, we obviously don't have a clear consensus on this issue right now. The turn is going to end in 15 more hours, so it's urgent that we decide what we're going to do.

Let's hold a quick vote right here in this thread: should we swap to settler in Pink Dot immediately and swap to Sailing research to go for those resources? I'll say YES, with the added caveat that we immediately contact Imperio and agree to the 25 turn NAP [Non-Aggression Pact] that they proposed. That would give us the breathing room needed to secure the location. And they did offer it to us, after all!

Fortune favors the bold.

Kylearan:
Hi,

fortune favors the bold indeed, and let me add: no risk, no fun! I'd say yes, grab that spot. It's just too good to pass up, IMHO. Might make the game all the more interesting, too. We just have to take some risk to compensate for our bad starting position, if we want to remain competitive.

-Kylearan

mostly_harmless:
Just in case my opinion was not made clear before:
YES! Go Cape Copper

mh

Ruff Hi:
My vote: Yes to city on Hill grabbing crabs, cows, horses, copper. And if we decide to go with it - I think that m-h has already named it. Any other location is just asking for trouble.

sunrise089:
Yes - settle for it. And please, can we place at least 2 archers there? If Imperio has any aggressive players at all, it would be so tempting to slam as many chariots as they can produce into that city the moment they discover it.

I hope we look at the situation this way: we're securing a strong city and a strong territorial claim, and at least we're settling on a strong defensive tile. We should not assume we can keep the copper hooked up under any sort of attack. Settling ON the copper is probably the MP play if you desperately need the copper enough to settle that far away, but you'd have to settle in-force with 3-4 units in the city.

Zeviz:
Yes. Settle that hill while researching Saling.

And we need to send a unit to clear last square of fog right away. I suggest moving one of the warriors as temporary garrison at the capital and send its archer out for that mission. We can train another archer when current worker is done.

EDIT: I am tempted to suggest settling on the copper, because then we wouldn't need to send a worker there at all, and wouldn't have to worry about keeping copper hooked up.

And that's why I love this team. In the span of eight hours, we came to a clear consensus, got valuable input from five different team members, and completely shifted the course of our civilization at the drop of a pin. What a fun group to work with. If we had success in this game, it was due to having such awesome team dynamics.

The result was swapping from Iron Working research to Sailing (needed to connect the resources at the Cape Copper location, because the land road would be a long time coming), changing Pink Dot to a settler with the intention of whipping it shortly thereafter, sending both of our archers towards the disputed Cape region, and keeping our scout Sharon in the region to watch Imperio movements. We also redoubled our efforts to secure a Non-Aggression Pact (NAP) with Imperio, as we could not afford to get into hot war over a region so far away from our civ's core.

I began planning out the route that our settler would have to take, all the way from Pink Dot:

Our two archers would have to provide cover along the way, against both possible barbs and wandering Templar quechua with mischievious intentions. Note also how many worker turns we had to sink into that road to Pink - just think how much more developed we would be if those had gone into early forest chops! Argh. No choice though, we needed a connection to our exposed second city.

After several weeks of trying to get in touch with Imperio, we finally chatted a bit (mostly from catching them in-game, actually) and worked up to this proposal:

Realms Beyond to Imperio:
Imperio,

Team RB would like to propose the following:

Non Aggression Pact (NAP)

Terms:
1) Imperio and Team RB enter a NAP until Turn 100.
2) The NAP can be canceled by either team at any time.
3) War between Imperio and Team RB cannot be declared until 20 turns after cancellation (or Turn 120 if NAP expires with no cancellation)

Ruff
Your Voice to the Realms Beyond Team

Imperio left us waiting for three weeks with no answer. To help accomodate them, darrelljs (or his wife, more accurately!) translated the above message into Spanish and we sent it over to Imperio again. Their belated response back to us:

Imperio to Realms Beyond:
The Imperio team are agree with the terms of the pact.

We considerate the pact singned in this moment.

Sorry for the lag in the answerd, we are searching a better embassador to speak with your team in english. My level is so bad and many part of the team was very busy.

MiTH of the Imperio.

Another success! This was a huge boon to Realms Beyond, as the move to settle the resources at the Cape turned into quite the race. As we got close to the intended spot, we noticed this:

Oh no, an Imperio settler clearly heading for the same spot! Our own settler is on the forest tile with the archer guarding it. If we took the two turns to move to our intended location on top of the plains hill tile, Imperio would beat us to the location! Instead, we talked it over and decided to found on the tile south of the copper and west of the horses. This spot lost out on the clams resource, but remained on the coast and secured the other three resources. This was one of the more dramatic moments in the game for me, waiting as the clock ticked down to move our settler immediately at the start of the next turn and grab the critical Cape location...

It worked! Of course, Imperio wasn't even logged into the game at the start of this turn, so there was no need to worry. Still, we grabbed the compromise spot without issue, renaming the city "Cape Town" to reflect the change of location. Two archers, a warrior, and a worker accompanied the new settlement, as we placed our stamp on the region. Imperio would move their settler to the north, founding another coastal city (Chichen Itza) that grabbed wheat and gold resources. The hilarious part was the Imperio signed their NAP with our team literally some 24 hours before we nabbed the Cape Town location. That was a huge coup for our team, and if not deliberately lying, it was definitely lying by omission. But all's fair in love, war, and the Apolyton Demogame!

Cape Town was one of the make-or-break moments of the Demogame for Realms Beyond. We beat Imperio to this spot by one turn, two turns at most. Thank heavens that we had the foresight to whip the settler for the Cape, and keep a scout in the area so as to see the approaching Imperio settler! Without this spot, we would not have had access to any horses or metals, and a team without resources is referred to as a "cripple" in Multiplayer. Provocative or not, our team simply had no choice. A civilization cannot defend itself with resourceless units - we would have been a sitting duck for anyone else interested in going the aggressive route.

Thus our two early gambles had both paid off, at least so far. But now we were going to have to deal with the fallout from our ambitious landgrab, trying to backfill our territory and keep fences mended with neighbors whose territory we had encroached upon. And still with no religion and no useable happiness resources to work with either, meaning our cities couldn't grow past size 4! Things were only just getting started.