When we discovered Paper tech, it opened up map trading with the other teams for the first time. Getting maps from Korea and Romali was no problem, but that still left much of the map uncovered. Although Nakor, Whosit, and slaze were not interested in dealing with our team, athlete was willing to trade us his world map in a gesture of friendship, and since he had already traded maps with Nakor (who had possessed Paper tech for some time already), we were in business! Thanks for the map information, athlete - we may have cause to use those maps for some military operations later...
This allowed me to do a "State of the Empire" type post going over the core territory of each competing nation:
We need to "slow down" Spartansburg so that it doesn't produce a Great Person before St. Albans. I have it set up so that St. Albans gets us a Great Person in 5 turns, Spartansburg timed to be just behind that at 6 turns. Hopefully we'll get a Great Engineer from the first, and either a Scientist or Merchant from the second. (Although we can put even an Artist to use, I have some ideas on that.)
Having the revealed world map made our planning much easier, and allowed us to make more informed decisions based on what the other teams were doing. We could see how the other teams had settled their land, and what level of infrastructure each city possessed inside. Based on what we saw, I believed that Kathlete was the greater danger than Nakor longterm. His land was just better, and his leader traits (Willem: Creative/Financial) were stronger too. In an equal opportunity world it might be better to face off against Holy Rome, but with the Ottomans right there on our border and Nakor separated from us by Dantski, it was pretty clear that attacking the Ottomans first would be more beneficial. Knowledge is power in this game - nothing's worse than having a black map full of fog with no idea what's going on!
Lost in that last post was the crucial tidbit that we had set up our cities so that St. Albans would produce one more Great Person before our National Epic city of Spartansburg started pumping them out in rapid assembly line fashion. We had about 80% odds to get a Great Engineer from St. Albans, which would hopefully allow us to research Nationalism and then steal the Taj Mahal away from Holy Rome. Even though they would almost certainly get to Nationalism tech before us, via a Liberalism slingshot, hopefully our Great Person would give us the edge in terms of the actual wonder itself.
The founding of Malvern Hill gave us a presence on the central island, making us the third team to arrive there. We actually narrowly beat Dantski to this area; his galley in the bottom left corner of this picture was preparing to ferry over a settler to the island. Malvern Hill was a very important location for stratgic purposes, although it also stretched our defenses. Very tough to hold those island cities against a determined attack. This is one reason why we waited to plant island cities until after we had eliminated Greece: we felt we had to secure our core first before going off on island adventures. Now we had a decent navy of triremes, and were in a position to make good on our new claims.
With our new map information, I went on to do some further analysis comparing our civilization to that of the other teams. I would go through and look at each of our opponents, but for brevity's sake I'll concentrate here on our two main rivals, Kathlete and then Nakor:
This information confirmed that we would be focusing on Kathlete as the greater threat to win the game. Although Nakor presented the challenge of a tech rival, we didn't think Holy Rome had the land or military to be competitive in a lategame showdown, if it would come to that. Meanwhile, while this was going on, the Decline and Fall of the Rome Empire continued:
The capture of Kuat by slaze caused the city to disappear from our now-outdated maps, however we knew from previous information that Kuat was located on the yellow dot. This meant that Whosit now had only three core cities remaining on the mainland (plus two cities on the central island), and he appeared not long to remain in this world. With our newfound access to the central island, we began drawing up plans to ferry some knights over to capture the Roman cities there for ourselves:
Nal Hutta would be a very useful location to hold, placing a ton of pressure on the nearby Holy Roman city of Rillanon. We could have four knights here in a hurry, and it was highly doubtful that Whosit's isolated size 3 jungle city would be able to stop that kind of force. But then:
In a repeat of Jowy in our Greek war, Whosit has gifted several cities to his "ally" (who didn't lift a finger to help him), to deny them as rightful conquests to his enemies. Sorry, but I think this is uber cheese. As far as I can tell, he gifted all the cities on the central island to Holy Rome, Sullla.|
Whosit has just 2 cities left, and is not long for this world.
Just as Speaker said, Whosit essentially threw in the towel and gifted away his two island cities to Holy Rome. We again saw this as a display of terrible sportsmanship, and were livid at how one of our main competitors was simply handed two cities for free. Nal Hutta would have been captured by our units in the next four to five turns, without a doubt, and thus we were once again denied a city conquest by means of cheese plays on the part of other teams. Yes, it kind of made a big difference having a city transfer from hopelessly backwards Whosit to state-of-the-art Nakor and DMOC! Furthermore, the city of Dathomir was an extremely strong location, with five different resources: double fish + bananas + iron + dyes + silver. It was probably Whosit's overall best city, size 8 at the time, and Holy Rome was getting it one hundred percent for free without doing a damn thing. Thanks to the gifts, Holy Rome now had five cities and a virtual stranglehold over the center island!
That would have been bad enough, but oh no, Whosit didn't stop there. Viewing himself as finished now, Whosit turned off science and ran 100% gold, proceeding to gift all of his income every turn over to Holy Rome. Nakor and DMOC would then use this free gold to run 100% deficit research in their push towards Liberalism. Needless to say, this was ridiculously unfair in a No Tech Trading game, as Whosit's largesse on death's door artificially inflated the position of Holy Rome, granting them benefits that they did not deserve and should not have received. Whether or not there was an official "rule" against this, it was an appallingly poor display of sportsmanship and should not have been allowed by the game moderator. We were told to suck it up and play on, that because we were winning we had no right to complain. We had no choice in the matter about this, but Speaker and I were not at *ALL* happy about this course of events, and the precedent that allowing cheese gifting was setting.
As the Roman army collapsed and began Whosit's cheese-fest, Kathlete renewed the war between the Ottomans and the Inca. What made this war so devastating was the fact that slaze had gifted most of his army over to the Ottomans, to be used against our India. Then athlete stabbed slaze in the back by redeclaring war on Inca, attacking slaze with his own army that he just gifted away!!!
Without getting too much into moralizing here, I'll just say that this was one of the most brutal backstabs I have ever seen in an online game, and I did not like the way that athlete played this out in the least. It would be very difficult for me to trust athlete in future Multiplayer games based on the way he acted in this one. The reaction from slaze was entirely understandable [warning for language]:slaze to Ottomans:
|Looking at the chat in full context, we agreed to go after sulla ... together. What, you need the magical words NAP for it to mean anything? This is bullshit. I gave you units for that purpose and now you're going against your own words: few turns notice. You're a fucking cheat and I hope you burn in hell. Fuck you.|
Which is more or less the same way I would have reacted, and I don't blame slaze in the least for feeling that way. It was a horrific betrayal any way that you looked at the situation, with even athlete admitting as much. slaze initially wanted to quit the game, but changed his mind and decided he would play things out to try to inflict as much pain as humanly possible on the invading Ottoman armies. That meant another round of massive whippings, which decimated the Incan economy just as it was starting to recover from the previous attack. The lurkers predicted doom for slaze in this second attack, but once again we weren't so sure, since athlete was still attacking with longbows and horse archers against defensive longbows. Nevertheless, any chance of slaze winning the game was effectively finished by this second round of warfare. As far as how we felt about the situation overall:Sullla:
It's worth pointing out just how badly the various Incan players have bungled their position. Inca had the fortune to eliminate their neighbor (Mortius) by walking into an empty capital ten turns into the game. Their neighbor to the north, Ottomans/Kathlete, spent the first 120 turns of the game rushing in the opposite direction to attack Byzantium and India, providing no competition for land or military hostitility. Inca's neighbor to the south, Rome/Whosit, spent the first 100 turns of the game rushing in the opposite direction to attack Korea, even moving their capital south before settling.|
Inca had the first 150 turns of the game all to themselves; no competition for land, no military pressure, a perfect builder's game scenario while every other team fought its way through at least one major war. They should have been far and away the dominant team in the game. Instead, the various leaders squandered that position and left themselves militarily vulnerable, forcing slaze to do his emergency whipping to save himself and destroy his economy in the process.
OK, bad enough. Then slaze, having survived that nasty attack, doesn't pause to consolidate and recover his economy (you know, like we suggested he should be doing?) but instead gifts half his army to Kathlete - the team that just attacked him!!! - and sends the other half off to fight Whosit, capturing more cities that he can't afford to keep economically. He spurns our offers, tries to play off two opposing sides at once diplomatically, and then has it blow up in his face. Finally, slaze threatens to quit the game when things look bad.
Wow. No offense intended, but that is some terrible play from start to finish. And again, why do people sign up for these games if they don't intend to finish them out? We had some absolutely horrible situations earlier, when I honestly hated this game and didn't even want to touch it - but we still played things out.
Finally, slaze's situation isn't *THAT* bad, at least militarily. Kathlete is going to be attacking with maces and horse archers and catapults against longbows. While he'll definitely be able to take cities, keep in mind that slaze has 16 whole cities (as many as we do!), so he can afford to lose some. slaze can whip and train up enough longbows to ensure his survival and keep most of his core intact. Recall that slaze did this whole dramatic performance thing earlier, where he said that he was on the verge of total destruction. Well, that attack didn't even manage to capture a single city and got totally butchered in the fighting. Exaggerate much?
As far Kathlete backstabbing him, yeah, it's brutal. But entirely deserved for playing both sides of the fence. Double agents have a short life and are hated by all. Go ask Imperio.
Also, if you gift away half your army to the person who just attacked you, you deserve to die.
While the Ottomans, Inca, Korea, and Rome continued to fight their various wars, we were engaged in the peaceful struggle with Holy Rome for Liberalism and the Taj Mahal. We did indeed get our Great Engineer at roughly 80% odds out of St. Albans, and our research pushed towards Education. Technically we could have gone straight to Nationalism, however by going for Education first we forced Holy Rome to cash in their Liberalism free tech right away, rather than saving it for something more valuable. Secondly, Education was a key tech for us as a Philosophical civ, so that we could get started on those half-cost universities and then parlay that into a fast Oxford in our (Bureaucracy) capital city. Oxford is one of the most crucial national wonders in the game - delay it at your own peril!
Holy Rome went ahead and claimed the Liberalism prize first, taking the expected Nationalism tech. We were now in a race to see whether Holy Rome could build Taj Mahal before we could discover Nationalism and rush the wonder with our Great Engineer. Unfortunately Nakor and DMOC had marble within their territory, which would make this a legitimate competition. We were able to secure a loan of 400 gold from Korea to help fund some deficit research; this was going to be close! I went back to the old C&D tracking of builds to see which of the Holy Roman cities was building the wonder, which quickly confirmed that it was under construction in the capital of Rolan:Sullla:
Rolan: 366 shields (+117)|
Where does the 117 come from? There was one forest chop remaining in Rolan's third ring, which gives 24 shields, for a net result of (15 + 24) * 3 [200% total production modifier) = 117 shields. That should be it for chops, but Rolan is now more than halfway there on Taj. Nakor still can't outbuild us to Taj, which will take another 8 turns to finish, but he may well be able to whip Taj to completion before we can rush it. We'll have to wait and see what he does. At least we don't have to worry about wasting a Great Engineer, since we can wait until the very end of the turn to rush Taj or not (if it's still available).
Nationalism tech is due in 3 turns, with the inclusion of 100% research on the last turn. Shame we can't speed it up any further, but that would have required like 1000 gold in deficit spending (which we simply don't have). I will probably set Gettysburg or another city to Wealth for this one current turn, so that we avoid running out of cash.
Nakor and DMOC were doing an excellent job of funneling forest chops into their capital, turning this into a race that would come down to the wire. When we generated a Great Artist as our first Great Person from Spartansburg, we had a major decision on our hands:
This was an unlucky break, as we only had 18% odds to get a Great Artist and any of the other options (Merchant, Scientist, or Prophet) would have been a lot more useful. Nevertheless, now we had two Great Artists via the free one from Music tech earlier. One possibility was popping off a Golden Age to speed along our Nationalism research. The downside was that if we missed out on Taj Mahal nonetheless, we would have effectively wasted a Golden Age at a time when we didn't particularly need it. Speaker and I discussed the situation, and ultimately decided to hold off on using one of those Artists. Was it the right decision? I still don't know, to be perfectly honest.
As it turns out, we would finish our Nationalism research on Turn 188:
However, thanks to some very nice lumberjacking work - including chopping their own forest deer tile in a reprise of the move we had done earlier at Chancellorsville - Nakor and DMOC managed to complete the Taj Mahal on the very same turn:
What else can I say, other than well done Holy Rome. They had the lead on us, thanks in part to that extra gold they received from Whosit, and then successfully turned that lead into a very productive wonder. Combined with the Mausoleum, and the burning of a Great Person a few turns later, Holy Rome would enjoy 24 straight turns of Golden Age research and production, strengthening their position enormously. We were beaten fair and square, and this would be a significant setback.
So why did we fail to get the Taj Mahal? It was another case of competing priorities. We felt compelled for reasons of military security to have the most advanced units at all points in time (playing against many enemy teams and with a huge target on our backs). That meant researching all the way up to Guilds for knights, whereas Holy Rome ignored these technologies. We also pushed for the top of the tree, the Aesthetics/Literature/Drama/Music group of techs, which were ignored by Holy Rome in their push for Education and Liberalism. Now this did ultimately cost us the Taj Mahal, but in turn we received some other major benefits in return. First, we used those superior military units to eliminate Jowy and drastically improve our strategic position. Secondly, we used Literature for the Epics and Drama for the Globe Theatre. Holy Rome would also open up these national wonders eventually, but we would have them up and benefitting us some 25 turns sooner, which made a real difference. We also parlayed Music tech into a free Great Artist and into the Notre Dame wonder:
Two additional happiness in all of our mainland cities was no mean benefit, as we expected that we would be doing more warring, slaving, and drafting before this game was over. Building up a large happy surplus now would only benefit us later on. Thus while this was indeed a setback, and Holy Rome would benefit enormously from their triple Golden Age of 24 turns, we reaped other benefits from the choices we made. Just trying to juggle too many balls at once, and not being able to keep them all in the air!
One such example of other balancing acts was the race towards Oxford University:
Thanks to some whip overflow, we already had half of Oxford completed. Along with a forest chop on the single remaining plains tile, we would complete Oxford here in just three more turns (Turn 191). Now we had only discovered Education tech itself on Turn 182, which meant that we churned out six universities and Oxford itself in the span of just nine total turns. Compare that to Nakor and DMOC, who discovered Education much earlier but still only had a single university completed. Yes, it helps sometimes to be Philosophical in this game!
We also finished the Globe Theatre in Chikamauga, intended for use later on as a massive draft camp. Chikamauga was an ideal location for Globe Theatre due to its triple food bonuses (fish + rice + sugar) which combined with grassland farms to grant the city a food surplus of +13 at size 5, good enough to draft almost every turn. Notice how we were working a grassland hill mine and even two workshop tiles to speed along the Globe Theatre, after which the city would go back to all farms again. Always try to make use of the local terrain, and don't hesitate to plant some temporary improvements as necessary. (You do have a surplus of worker labor, right?)
Finally, as far as that extra Great Engineer was concerned:
We used him to rush the Apostolic Palace in Spartansburg, adding some free Great Prophet points in our National Epic city to go along with the wonder. Yes, the Apostolic Palace! We had our own self-founded religion, now it was time to start making use of the Monk economy. Although we had no temples or monasteries worth mentioning, that was about to change in a hurry. They would all produce 2 shields/turn with Judaism as the Apostolic faith, and then we could further layer an extra two beakers on top of that via Sankore University (and maybe even two more gold from Spiral Minaret, if we were ever to research Divine Right tech). For 80 shields, a Jewish temple producing +1 happy, 2 shields, 2 beakers, and 1 culture was a pretty good deal!
We further triggered a Golden Age to speed along our development at this point, finally making use of that extra Great Artist. The idea was to use the Golden Age to research Banking, Theology, Constitution, and Gunpowder technologies. Afterwards, we could then swap on the final turn of the Golden Age into Representation, Nationhood, Mercantilism, and Theocracy civics - changing everything except Slavery! That would deny all our trade routes to other civs (useful when you're the biggest empire), pair up the very strong Representation/Mercantilism combo, and also allow us to draft units with Theocracy experience. 2 XP on conscripts, 5 XP on normal units. Train up some experienced units, keep researching towards Rifling/Military Tradition for rifles and cavs, then go smash the Ottomans.
Speaking of the Ottomans, athlete was not faring as well as he expected in his war against slaze:
Neither athlete nor slaze posted much of anything on what happened in this war, but I think I have a reasonable grasp of the fighting. The Ottoman army managed to capture the two Incan cities on the border (Ollantaytambo = Raithal and DINA = Theed Palace), and then was counter-attacked by slaze's own units returning from the Roman front. Both sides had mass longbows, horse archers, and catapults, which meant a bloody war of attrition with horrible losses on both sides. Think Russia 1941-1945, with slaze's ability to use local roads and reinforce quickly giving him the edge. The Ottomans were never able to penetrate beyond those two border cities, and athlete began a slow retreat backwards which continued into his own territory. Despite fighting with badly outdated units, the Incan horse archers were able to slip past athlete and carry out a daring raid into Ottoman territory, razing the core city of Corellia to the ground!
Corellia had been a size 12 city, and its loss was a major blow against athlete. Well done, slaze! It was remarkable how well he had managed to do in this war, and how poorly the Ottomans had fared despite their great numerical and technological advantages. Of course, all of this fighting had other effects, as the Power chart demonstrates:
The Ottoman and Incan armies were tearing one another to pieces, and damaging the economies of both sides in the process as well. Now Holy Rome was clearly the only rival to our India in research power, as the Ottomans were wasting their excellent potential through these terrible wars against Inca. And as for Rome, it was obvious that Whosit's days were numbered, with Korea finishing the job a few turns later:
Great work, Broker and plako! I don't think anyone could have seen that particular turnaround coming back when Whosit made peace with Korea. Ironically, Whosit signed peace with Korea so that he could send his Praetorians over to attack India - what a mistake in retrospect! It would have been a very different game if Whosit had eliminated Korea early on, rather than charging halfway across the world to lead a (failed) attack against Speaker and myself. After that, Whosit simply took on too many opponents at once and wasn't ever able to get his economy on track. Once the Aggressive Praetorians were outdated, that was effectively the end. In any case, we were now down to just six remaining teams in the game... and only two remaining members of the former Coalition of the Willing.
What a dramatic change from just 30 turns earlier. Rome and Greece were completely eliminated, and the Ottomans badly damaged by constant fighting. Holy Rome was rapidly turning into the only credible opponent still standing.
Of course, we were using our Golden Age to boost our production capability with all of those Apostolic Palace temples/monasteries, plus train an unending supply of knights out of our Heroic Epic city. St. Albans could produce 85 shields/turn in Golden Age mode, almost enough for a knight every turn! It still reached 65 shields/turn even under normal conditions, which was enough for 2 knights every 3 turns. Excellent. Even before entering the Golden Age, we had cracked the 500 beaker/turn mark at break-even science, something that no other team could do. Many thanks to the fast Oxford University there. Finally, note the Gunpowder research. From there it would be on to Military Tradition (cuirassiers) and a whole lot of trouble for the Ottomans.
We were putting ourselves in excellent position for some more military action when our Non-Aggression Pact wore off on Turn 205. How would athlete respond, and would Nakor choose to do anything as his remaining allies were picked off one by one? This game continued to bring exciting times...