Realms Beyond Pitboss #2: Introduction


Earlier, our community at Realms Beyond took part in a long-running team Multiplayer game of Civilization 4, competing against other teams of humans in what was known as the Apolyton Demogame. (If you haven't already read the very long report on that venture here on this website, go check it out.) After the Apolyton game ran its course and ended, many people in the community were interested in continuing on with more such games. Everyone was dissatisfied with the incompetent administration/organization over at Apolyton, leading us to host our own Play by Email and Pitboss games of Multiplayer Civ4. As it turned out, we could and did provide a superior environment on our own forums! With the first PBEM and Pitboss games underway and enjoying great success, thoughts soon began to turn towards another such venture... because one game of Civ is never enough.

Once again, it started with a post by Mortius on the Realms Beyond Civ message forums, on 29 September 2009...

Mortius:

Maybe it's the right time for a second RB Pitboss?

The start of the RB Pitboss was a great success. It gives life into the RB Civilization forum. Many more people started to participate in the other RB events (epics and adventures), and maybe itís the right time to channel the increased interest and start a second Pitboss game? I know I am not the person, who should announce such an event but I just want to start a discussion.

I am not a veteran player, participated in only 3 RB adventures, and I feel a little guilty for starting the thread, but maybe there are more players, who desperately needed a second Pitboss .... like me

Players quickly started signing up and forming teams to take part in the new game, dubbed Realms Beyond Pitboss #2 (RBPB2). I was uncertain on whether or not to get involved in another one of these massive undertakings, but then I received a request from longtime friend Speaker to team up together, and that pretty much sealed the deal. Speaker and I go back a long way (see us playing a Civ3 succession game together here in 2003), and we play very well off each other's strengths. My expertise at this game generally lies in economic development and longterm strategic planning. I'm a builder, not a fighter at heart - it's always been more fun for me to develop my own civ than tear down and destroy everyone else's. Speaker spent years competing on the cutthroat Multiplayer ladder, games centered on fast-paced warfare in a deadly environment. There are few people who better understand combat in Civ4, at both the tactical and the operational levels, than he does. Of course both of us also have experience at more than one thing: Speaker has dominated the AI in Single Player games, and I've played dozens of Multiplayer games on the ladder myself. We were confident that we could create a very formidable team, and make ourselves the "team to beat" amongst all the other players.

The game setup was handled by sunrise - "General sunrise" of Apolyton Demogame fame, who would be an opponent in this game! - and took place calmly and logically over the course of two weeks. What a contrast to the mess of the previous Demogame. We ended up with the following key settings:

* 10 teams
* Unrestricted leaders
* 24 hour Pitboss turn timer
* Normal speed, Monarch difficulty
* No huts, no random events, no vassal state, no spies
* No tech trading

I highlighted the last rule setting because it would have such a dramatic effect upon the game. A MP game without tech trading is very, very different from one that does have it enable. More on this later.

We drew lots among the ten teams for picking order on leaders/civs, and then assigned them according to a snake pick. The team with the first pick had their choice of picking a leader or a civilization, then the second team, and so on until team #10, then proceeding back in reverse order so that the team which picked their leader first had their last choice of civilization. This is the way the MP ladder normally operates, since most games are played with Unrestricted leaders. The snake pick went down as follows:

* Willem
* Gandhi
* Pacal
* Darius
* Inca [note the civ, not leader pick]
* Elizabeth
* Ragnar
* Mali
* Rome
* Peter/Byzantium (halfway point)
* Shaka
* Julius Caesar
* Zulu
* India
* Mehmed
* Holy Roman Empire
* Greece
* Korea
* Ottomans

Summary
Team One Team Two Team Three Team Four Team Five Team Six Team Seven Team Eight Team Nine Team Ten
athlete + kalin Broker + plako Jowy DMOC + Nakor Iamjohn + Kodii + Zeviz Speaker + Sullla Mortius Dantski LiPing + Whosit darrelljs + regoarrarr + sunrise
Willem of Ottomans Gandhi of Korea Pacal of Greece Darius of HRE Mehmed of Inca Elizabeth of India Ragnar of Zulu Julius Caesar of Mali Shaka of Rome Peter of Byzantium

We had picks #6 and #14, winding up with Elizabeth of India as our leader/civ combination. Elizabeth was a pretty obvious selection; with Willem, Pacal, and Darius all off the board already, Elizabeth's Financial/Philosophical combination was by far the best from an economic perspective. Elizabeth is possibly the best pure techer in the game, and landing her with the sixth pick was a steal. For a game without tech trading, economic advantages from leader traits would overwhelmingly trump the military advantages of Aggressive/Charismatic/Protective. Speaker further explained the logic of our India pick:

Speaker:

I'd like to give a little bit more behind my thought process when ranking the civs, to give you guys a bit more perspective about how a MPer goes about it.

Unique Unit: The Fast Worker
India's unique unit is without a doubt the best in the game. I see advantages in CIV build exponentially. Get your 2nd city founded 4 turns faster than your neighbor and by the time you have 4 they have 3. By the time you have 8, they have 5, and so on. For that reason, Fast Workers are amazing because they can enter a forest and chop right away, making your chops take 3 turns rather than 4 (on quick speed), for a nifty 25% improvement. Later, in serfdom, or with hagia sophia, or once you hit the Renaissance era, when worker chops take just 2 turns, you get them a whopping 50% faster! Similarly, the ability to move 2 turns and then cottage or farm is tremendously powerful in the early game, before you have a good road system. This allows you greater micromanagement freedom as you move your workers around your land, which is key in the early game to speed up your development, which as I mentioned before, snowballs.

Also Considered: Cataphract, Janissary
The cataphract is the best non-Fast Worker UU in the game. It is slightly better than the Praetorian because the extra movement point more than balances out the Praetorian's extra 13% strength improvement over its replaced unit. Not to mention that the Praetorian is actually more expensive than the unit it replaces, while the Cataphract costs the same as the Knight. Two-movers are much stronger in multiplayer games than they are in single player because of the increased importance of tactics, and the "city-elimination" rules. Most multiplayer games are played with "2-city elimination," meaning if you lose 2 cities, you die. The beauty of two-move units is that they can effectively "fork" (threaten) two or more cities, stretching the defenses, far more effectively than single move units can. Combine that with the ability to move a chariot/horse archer/knight/etc one tile and pillage a road, and you have a very effective mobile force, which is even stronger in the early game, before 3-move roads.

But before you think that two-movers are overpowered, consider that the majority of them (exceptions: Impi, Immortal, Musketeer, Conquistador in Vanilla and Warlords, can't remember if it was removed in BtS when the Conq was changed to a Currasier replacement) do not receive a defensive bonus, and there are no two-move collateral damage units without using a great general until the utterly-broken mobile artillery. This is why I had a great chuckle at this thread on CFC. The musketeer is uber in multiplayer because it can be combined with knights to protect them, and it is an amazing mobile defender, able to move across 6 tiles to reinforce any city with the defensive bonus a knight can't provide. Attacking an enemy who has a significant number of protective musketeers is lolz unless you have *overwhelming* force.

So anyways, we were interested in using the Cataphract, which is very strong, and actually has no counter, since it is 50/50 before bonuses against the pikeman, but with combat 1 + shock is actually stronger than both a pike and a knight. So yeah, it probably should have been strength 11, not strength 12, to be more balanced. But Sunrise's team had the same thought, so oh well.

The Janissary is decent enough. It does well against Longbows, Knights, and Maces, and you can give some of them the "pinch" promotion to defend against muskets, so you have a versatile unit which is strong against every unit of the era. But it isn't a particulary great offensive unit, and I don't expect us to be defending in the Renaissance era, so it wasn't really a big part in my rankings...

Unique Building
Happiness in multiplayer is key. In single player, you can get multiple religions, take the time and production to spread them, build lots of temples and cathedrals, and easily trade with the AI for as many happiness resources as you can get. One of my favorite lines of text in the game is the polite way of making a demand: "this sure would come in handy!"

Hereditary rule is really strong early because it allows you to blow past the early happiness cap. If you have properly prepared and have made a few cheap warriors for each city when you finish researching monarchy, you can get into hereditary rule, click the "max growth" button, and watch your tech blow up, as you grow like a weed and work a ton of cottages. Later in the game, however, there are much better government civics. Representation will be awesome for us, being philosophical, for the synergy between the two concepts. Police state is great to build units quickly, though the High Upkeep is not particularly great. And universal suffrage is probably even more valuable than police state once all your cottages have matured into towns, especially when combined with emancipation and free speech. So, suffice to say, with so many juicy options, you want to get out of hereditary rule as soon as you can. But if you aren't blessed with many happiness resources, and remember, in MP, the human players are a lot less likely to hand over valuable happiness resources, which let you grow your cities and produce more commerce, more units, or both.

This is where a few Unique Buildings really shine.
Hammam: Aqueduct replacement with +2 happiness
Mausoleum: Jail replacement with +2 happiness
Ball Court: Colosseum replacement with +2 extra happiness
Hippodrome: Theatre replacement with +1 happiness from horses (instead of dyes) and +2 happiness per 10% culture rate (instead of the theatre's +1)
Odeon: Colosseum with +1 extra happiness

The Hammam is the second best unique building in the game, after the Terrace (as Sullla has already mentioned) because it provides its bonus so early, and the building is so utterly useful. In essence, it allows you to raise both the happiness and health cap in every city! Like the granary, it's the sort of building you should put in nearly every city, and it is available in the classical age! The only downside is that it is pretty expensive at 100 hammers on normal speed. The Ball Court and Odeon are both pretty good because they are available pretty early, but the Colosseum is a pretty weak building overall. Using the culture slider for anything other than a quick happiness fix or border pop is suicide in multiplayer, as you fall behind technologically, which usually translates to military might. The Mausoleum provides the same bonus as the Hammam, but it comes much later, and is not such a crucial building that you would build anyways. However, it is very cheap, at just 120 hammers, considering it is available in the Renaissance/Industrial era, with Constitution. The Hippodrome is sort of weak because like the colosseum, it really needs the culture slider to shine. But the +1 happiness from horse is nice since you won't always have access to dyes, causing you to lose that +1 happiness bonus with a regular theatre. One small feature...er...bug? of the Hippodrome is that it does not give you the ability to work two artist specialists like a regular theatre does. This wouldn't likely be an issue for us, as I imagine we'll make plenty of use of the caste system civic, being philosophical, meaning we won't be needing the two artists from a theatre, but it can be an annoyance in other situations, and I don't think the building is so strong that it needed to be weakened, like the poor 5-strength Jaguar was.

So taking India, the Mausoleum will be a nice bonus to replace the hereditary rule happiness, but it didn't play a huge part in our decision to choose this civ, and missing out on the Hammam does make me sad.

Starting Technologies
And finally, the last piece of my analysis of our Civ selection. I imagine this is not something that you think about in single player, where the game moves at a more leisurely pace (unless, of course, you are playing in some sort of *ahem* fastest-finish competition ).

As I have mentioned a few times now, that advantages multiply exponentially, getting off to a fast start is paramount. In this regard, building a worker first can be a really strong play if you are in a relatively safe position, but only if you have something for your worker to do!

Consider a Civ like the Aztecs. They start with Mysticism and Hunting. If you build a worker first, and didn't research Mining (mine) or Agriculture (farm), your worker would sit around twiddling his thumbs. He couldn't even chop, which requires Bronze Working, which requires Mining!

The second consideration is a worker start versus a warrior start. Any civ starting with Hunting gets a scout, while the rest get a warrior. In an always war game, starting with a warrior while your neighbor has a scout is incredibly powerful. You can safely build a worker first, while sending your warrior toward your opponent. He will be forced to build at least two warriors, one to defend his city, and at least one to defend his worker (once he eventually is able to build it, 4-8 turns after you!). The scout's greater ability to find huts and explore your land balances it out in theory, but most multiplayer games (including this one!) turn off huts, because they are pure luck, and have the potential to be pretty game breaking. So in lieu of huts, the scout start is pretty weak.

Here is the breakdown on scout vs warrior in this game:
Speaker + Sullla - India - Warrior
Broker + Plako - Korea - Warrior
DMOC + Nakor - Holy Rome - Warrior
Iamjohn + Kodii + Zevis - Inca - Warrior
Dantski - Mali - Warrior
Liping - Rome - Warrior
Regoarrarr + darrelljs + sunrise089 - Byzantium - Warrior
Athlete + Kalin - Ottomans - Warrior

Mortius - Zulu - Scout
Jowy + Yazilliclick - Greece - Scout

In case anyone is curious, I do have these all memorized. Having played a ton of ancient era games in multiplayer, you come to learn these pretty fast. You have to know if the other team has a warrior or scout start on turn 0, as it has a big impact on your early play. Since techs are pooled by the team, if any single player on the team starts with hunting, the whole team gets scout starts. In an always war team game, having a warrior scout when your opponents have scouts is more overpowered than if your team all had 2 irrigated corns while your opponents each had the dreaded unirrigated rice.

In this game, I don't think it will be as important as in a typical ladder mp game, without the early warrior choking, but it should allow us to feel safe while skimping on early military. Worker-Worker-Settler is a real possibility for us!

The other benefit of not starting with hunting is the ability to ignore it (and archery) altogether, and thus build lots of cheap warriors for hereditary rule happiness. If you can pull this off, and build a few axes or swords for early defense, you can jack your city sizes up when you research monarchy. Without spears, however, you are vulnerable to a chariot rush, so you'll need to build a few swords, since axes fare so poorly against chariots.

So, on to our actual starting technologies with India....

Mining
Mysticism

Mining is a strong starting tech. It allows us to research Bronze Working first, and have the ability to chop right away and switch into the Slavery civic.

Mysticism is much less useful in MP than it is in SP. A player who plays the monk and researches religions first will fall behind due to ignoring worker (remember the snowball!) and military techs, leaving them vulnerable to a choke (warrior or archer) or early rush (chariots or axes).

Overall, our starting techs are average. We have one useful tech, and one meh tech. We will need to research at least one tech to have something useful for our first worker to do. If our food is a pig, sheep, or cow (as much as I love steak, I hope not!), we will be far away from being able to pasture it. We need 3 techs to get pottery and build cottages.

In an ideal world, we'd have Agriculture and either The Wheel or Mining. This provides for the most flexible opening. If we have corn, wheat, or rice for food, we can farm straight away. Starting with Mining, we can research Bronze Working first and start chopping. Starting with The Wheel, we only need one tech to get Pottery, to build early cottages, and tech like beasts! Which Civs start with Agriculture and The Wheel, you might ask?

Ottomans
Egypt
Babylon
France
Sumeria

Incidentally, only China starts with Agriculture and Mining, but their UU and UB are so meh, we never considered them.

So when considering India vs. Ottomans, this is how I broke it down:

Ottoman: Amazing UB, Pretty good UU, Best starting traits.

India: Pretty good UB, Amazing UU, OK starting traits.

Ultimately, we valued the strength of the Fast Worker highest. It will give us a nice boost to our growth rate (the benefit is almost like a free Expansive trait without the +2 health), and depending on the terrain, will allow for a tricky attack or two over hills or through jungles.

Did we make the best choice? Only time will tell.

Extremely well said! I could not have written it better. While Speaker addressed our own team, I offered my pre-game thoughts on our opponents and their selections:

Sullla:

Team #1: athlete4life and kalin, Willem of the Ottomans. I know these two players from their involvement in the previous Realms Beyond PBEM and Pitboss games. Without spoiling too much information from those games, both players ran into some difficulties in their previous endeavors. athlete was one of the weaker players in the PBEM game, and kalin got into a bit of a brinksmanship showdown with Krill in the Pitboss #1 game, which didn't end too well for him. In terms of pure Civ4 skills, this is probably not the most dangerous team out there.

On the other hand, they've managed to land a very strong combination of civ and leader picks. I had Willem (Cre/Fin) ranked as my top leader, and Speaker had him ranked second, so this is a very strong pairing of traits. Financial is golden for a self-research game like this, and Creative provides both free cultural expansion (skip monuments) and cheap libraries. Those libraries are key, as they get the early research advantage and that snowballs into other first-to tech tree bonuses later on. Furthermore, athlete and kalin managed to pair Willem with the Ottomans, a civ which unfathomably remained until the very last selection! We already explained above why the Ottomans are an excellent choice with their musket (draftable!) unique unit and +2 happiness unique building. Plus, athlete and kalin will benefit from being the only Creative team in the game, meaning their borders can dominate all comers.

I think this team will do OK in this game, all things considered. The experience that athlete and kalin got in their previous games will no doubt come in handy.

Team #2: Broker33 and Plako, Gandhi of Korea. I have some contact with both of these players as well, Broker from RB Pitboss #1 and Plako from Team Saturn in the CivFanatics Demogame. Broker did well in that game to get into a strong diplomatic alliance, however his civ's development has been a little on the weak side. Plako was (and is) one of the major voices and turnplayers for Team Saturn, but that's maybe not a strong recommendation as Saturn is the last-place team in that game and has really made a mess of some things. (Apologies to any Saturn readers, but it wasn't a well-played game!) This is perhaps not the most fearsome team either.

Unlike the first team, Broker and Plako didn't get a power combination of civ and leader. Gandhi (Phi/Spi) is simply a weak choice with the #2 leader pick; maybe OK for one of the last leader selections, but there were MUCH stronger options with that second pick. There's no Financial to boost commerce, no Expansive for quick workers/granaries, and no Creative for the border pops and cheap libraries. That is, none of the 3 top-tier traits that I had in my own personal ranking, which is probably a bad sign. That's not to say that Spiritual or Philosophical are bad traits (heck, we have Philosophical as well!) just that there were better leaders out there with that early pick.

Korea is actually OK for civ pick #10, since most of the best selections were already gone. Not as good as the Ottomans, of course, but not bad. Pairing the seowon with a Philosophical civ isn't a bad way to go, although the unique building comes pretty late in the game to be decisive. The hwatcha offers a minor advantage, nothing special. Since this team doesn't have much in the way of economic advantage, it's going to be their Civ play that makes the difference. With no disrespect intended to Broker and Plako, I don't think this will be one of the power teams. We'll see if they can prove me wrong!

Team #3: Jowy and Yazilliclick, Pacal of Greece. I don't know anything about these two players, so nothing more to be said there. They are true wildcards entering this game, which could make for some excitement. Their selection of Pacal (Exp/Fin) was an inspired choice; I had Pacal rated #2 and Speaker had Pacal rated #1. We really would have liked to get this fellow, for the awesome combo of Financial along with cheap granaries and workers. Two of the three power traits, you can't do much better than that!

The Greeks are a much weaker civ choice. There's nothing particularly special about either the Phalanx or Odeon, so I really wonder what the inspiration was for this choice. It seems like there were much better choices out there; aside from the Ottomans, I also would have looked to the English perhaps as a better pick. Inca would have been the perfect combination, but of course they were already long taken. Anyway, as the previous paragraph indicated, I just have no clue what to expect from these two. I expect they will surprise us!

Team #4: DMOC and Nakor, Darius of the Holy Roman Empire. I know DMOC from Team Saturn in the CivFanatics Demogame, where he is another active participant in their team forum. Given Saturn's fate, that's perhaps not the greatest endorsement in the world, but who knows, this game could well be different. I don't know Nakor at all, another newcomer and wildcard to Realms Beyond.

This is one of the obvious Unrestricted Leader pairings, Darius (Fin/Org) with the Rathaus of the HRE civ. While no doubt it's a good one, in all honesty I think this pairing is overrated. Organized may be a good trait, but it's not uber by any means, and on only Monarch difficulty the maitenance savings aren't super useful. Honestly, I think the cheap lighthouses and factories are as good as the cheap courthouses, and with us turning off most Espionage for this game (no spies), that cuts down the value of having cheap access to Espionage Points significantly. The Rathaus, while good, is severely overrated in my opinion: on paper it looks incredible, yet in-game the effects never seem to be all that noticeable. When I played as the HRE myself in the past, I was underwhelmed. Getting faster Rathauses doesn't make all that much difference either. So yes, this is a strong economic pairing, but it's not as good as you might think right away. Watch the game and see how it plays out in practice; hopefully I'll be proven right on this. All in all though, these were not bad selections, just a little predictable.

Team #5: Iamjohn and Kodii and Zeviz, Mehmed of Inca. Here we have the triplet team, which took forever to make their civ/leader selections! All of these players are longtime RB veterans who have been part of numerous ventures in the past. Zeviz is probably the one I've spent the most time with in the past, and made some good contributions to the Apolyton Demogame team. Zeviz leans a little bit too much towards one main theme ("build more cottages!"), which may end up hurting a non-Financial team. Kodii has some great games in his past, yet he is/was part of the mostly_harmless/Kodii team which played a very silly opening in the RB Pitboss #1 game, and really should have been eliminated early on by their nextdoor neighbor. Overall though, I think this is a solid team composition, one of the better ones in this game.

Kodii's bunch was the one that made the unusual selection of Inca with the fifth pick, opting to forego their leader until second. The obvious reason was to get the Terrace, the best unique building in the game, which practically serves as a mini-Creative trait with its broken free culture. Unfortunately that meant that this team got the 10th and last leader pick in the game, and that really did hurt them. To take Inca with such an early pick means that you need to grab Expansive with a leader, for the cheap granaries, yet they were really hurt by seeing so many of the good Expansive leaders fall to other teams: Pacal, Peter, and Shaka were all off the board by the time it got back to them. The next-best Expansive leader left was Suryavarman (Exp/Cre), yet that would have been a waste for them because Inca nullifies the desire for Creative trait. Thus they made the best of a bad situation by taking Mehmed (Exp/Org), which is not terrible, but the Organized trait can't be what they wanted. Losing out on Peter (Exp/Phi) to sunrise's team was the real blow, since that would have been the perfect selection for them.

Overall this team should be fairly strong too. Inca is pretty good and they do have the cheap Expansive granaries (err, terraces) so they should be OK. In their situation, I probably would have argued for ditching Organized and going with Joao's Imperialistic trait for full-out city/worker spam mode, but I'm glad they didn't do that! Even if the maintenance costs would be rough, it would still have been tough to play against.

Team #7: Mortius, Ragnar of the Zulu. I don't know a whole lot about Mortius; he played in a couple of our SP games a while back, and did quite well, but he had been very quiet until recently with the start of the Pitboss activity. I'm not sure what to expect from his style of play.

The pairing of Ragnar (Agg/Fin) with the Zulus is a mixture that has potential both for early rushes and longterm development. Impis can be a total terror in the early game: hook up copper immediately, chop out a swarm of them, and choke your nearest neighbor to death. But that's likely to be a losing strategy in this game, as even if you do defeat another team, your own development will be slowed to the point of gaining no advantage. Aggressive impis are more dangerous, but only slightly; as spears, they will still lose to axes with or without the Aggressive trait. It's almost an unneeded addition, really, as impis aren't units that will be attacking cities anyway. But of course Aggressive applies to more than just impis, and drafted Gunpowder units with free Combat I could be a real danger later on.

The Financial half of the leader pick provides some economic boost, as does the Ikhanda unique building (which is rightly paired with Aggressive for the cheap bonus, since Ikhandas are slightly more expensive than regular barracks). Like the Rathaus, however, I've found the Ikhanda to be somewhat overrated in terms of fighting maintenance costs. 20% reduction is at most 1gpt saved in the early-to-mid game, and while every bit counts, that's hardly a gamebreaker. The Ikhanda actually gets the most benefit later on, with things like corporation maintenance reduction, yet by then you've probably either won or lost the game already, haven't you? Anyway, this is still a pretty good pairing, but (to me at least) the impi rush is the biggest threat, along with late Aggressive conscripts.

Team #8: Dantski, Julius Caesar of Mali. Dantski is another longtime veteran of Realms Beyond, with some Pitboss experience from the first RB game (although regoarrarr has done most of the work there). I would probably say that Dantski's Civ play is neither exceptionally good nor exceptionally bad, but rather very solid, usually without any big mistakes. Unfortunately, Dantski has the single worst leader/civ pairing in this game!

Julius Caesar (Imp/Org) wasn't even remotely on the list of civs that we were looking at. While it's true that being the only Imperialistic civ might help in an early settling race, there just isn't that much value in this trait for a long, epic-style game. Organized helps, but only so much. Much as I like the historic Caesar, this leader gives up Financial, Creative, Expansive, and Philosophical: every single other leader in the game has at least one of these four traits! And that's no coincidence, as these are the best traits for economy and early expansion. Out of the six possible combinations of these four traits, we have four of them present here (Willem [Cre/Fin], Pacal [Exp/Fin], Liz [Fin/Phi], Peter [Exp/Phi]) lacking only Suryavarman [Cre/Exp] and Frederick [Cre/Phi]. These weak traits are going to drag down Dantski.

Furthermore, there was no reason to pick Mali, especially with with #2 civilization pick!!! Honestly, this was probably the worst decision in the whole snake pick, guaranteeing the #9 leader selection in order to take a weak civ which unquestionably would have still been there on the return trip. Mali's skirmishers are decent units, but they have two real uses in a MP setting: to choke someone else, or to defend against a choke attack. Since rushing and choking are likely to be self-defeating strategies in this game, the skirmisher doesn't have great value. Mali's unique building (Mint) is OK, but no one is going to be raving about +10% gold, which is another 1gpt boost at best in the early game. There's a reason why civs usually get picked by unique units, not buildings...

Dantski might end up doing well, but he has a major uphill climb ahead of him. I anticipate this team struggling a lot, unless there is some mystery super-plan that I'm not seeing.

Team #9: LiPing, Shaka of Rome. Well, here is your rush civ for RB Pitboss game #2! Shaka (Agg/Exp) has the max aggression early rush traits, while Rome provides the Praetorians for the smash power. LiPing is making an awesome power play for typical Ancient teamer MP game. Only problem is that this isn't an Ancient MP game, and once the Classical age is reached this team has nothing left going for itself. (Just look at how not successful Imhotep has been in the first Pitboss game, where he followed this picking strategy.)

I think that LiPing has simply gone about approaching this game the wrong way. Even in a MP Free-For-All epic game, played Always War style, the winner is invariably the person who can out-tech the others and establish a military lead that way. You simply don't win these types of games by loading up on Ancient age power units, because even if you do manage to take out an opponent, you've simply managed to maintain parity with the other teams who are expanding peacefully. Early aggression is a zero-sum losing game, in my opinion: the only way to win is not to play that game.

Speaker and I simply have to hope that we don't start next to LiPing and be subject to an early attack! By the medieval period, this team should be starting to fall behind technologically and no longer remain a threat.

Team #10: regoarrarr, darrelljs, and sunrise, Peter of Byzantium. The team of all lower-case names! Here we have what looks to be by far the most dangerous opponent in the Pitboss game. darrell is very good at all-around economic stuff, regoarrarr is excellent at diplomacy, and sunrise knows the military side of the game quite well. All three of them were on the Apolyton team, and regoarrarr and sunrise were highly influential in our eventual victory there. Their picks show that they know what they're doing, and will pose a major threat to win the game. In an ideal scenario, this team would join with us and we would carve up the map together!

For a team that had the seventh leader pick, they did very well for themselves. Peter (Exp/Phi) is a leader that Speaker tabbed for us to consider if we ended up down at the bottom of the snake pick, tagging up Expansive's worker/granary power with easy access to Great People. Speaker and I were divided on where Peter was better than Suryavarman, but we both agreed that this was near the top of the non-Financial leaders. As far as civs go, Byzantium was my #1 choice, which they stole away from us! The cataphract unique unit is one of the best in the game, and completely dominant in the medieval/early Renaissance period. There's literally nothing that stands up to it; even a pike only gets even odds. Everything else in that era is slaughtered. I want no part of this team when the cataphract first appears on the scene! The hippodrome unique building is quite good as well, with +1 happy innate and another +1 happy from horses. I wish that Dantski would have taken this civ with his pick, just to deny it to sunrise and crew. (Although then they probably would have taken India, which would also have been a good selection.)

Overall, this would be my top prediction to win the game - after our team, of course. It's just a very strong combination of players, leader, and civ.

Some last interesting tidbits... After the run on SEVEN Creative leaders in the first Pitboss game, there's only one in this game, and that turned out to be Willem. No Industrious leaders at all, meaning everyone is on the same level for wonder-building (good news for us). Getting to techs first will likely decide who gets the wonders, although we have an edge for the early ones with our Fast Workers' ability to chop chop chop. The big increases were Financial and Philosophical, as everyone pushed for the leaders with traits that boost economy. Most of the selections were pretty good, with only the Broker/Plako and Dantski teams being on the weird side.

* * * * * * * * * *

Still with us after all that text? Great. We decided that we would call ourselves "The Killer Angels", and name our cities after American Civil War battles. Now the one thing that makes the Multiplayer games at Realms Beyond special is that they are played out in the forums, openly, with anyone able to read along and follow the action. We trust the players not to cheat and refrain from reading the threads of the other teams until the game comes to an end. That's a lot of faith to put in our players, but we have a great community, and with no rewards or prizes to be won, player cheating has fortunately never been an issue for us. Unlike most other Demogames and PBEM games, therefore, RBPB2 was an open event playing out publicly in front of the whole community... and one which attracted a ton of attention. Our spoiler thread would end up with 2400 posts and more than 250,000 thread views as dozens (hundreds?) of people followed the action on a daily basis for months on end. The other teams in the game attracted similar attention, and the "lurker" thread of non-players commenting on the action would draw more than 3000 posts before all was said and done. RBPB2 was the most popular, most discussed, and most controversial event ever held at Realms Beyond.

This is a summary of that action, written from the perspective of my team (India). While this is going to be a very long report, it's still only a snapshot of what took place. If you'd like to read the whole thing in detail, you can head on over to the RBPB2 Forum and read through the threads on your own. There's more than 10,000 posts across all of the various spoiler threads, so you'll be busy for a while! For the condensed version, click on to the next page.

Be warned though: a lot of the lurkers disagreed vehemently with many of the things that Speaker and I did...