In the first 35 turns of the game, we put ourselves into an excellent position through aggressive use of Fast Worker forest chops. The goal for the immediate future was to keep the snowball rolling forward, gathering momentum all the while, by teching upwards and continuing to churn out more settlers, workers, and cities. Our new, updated dotmap:
We shifted our original Blue dot location one tile west, after horses were revealed northeast of Gettysburg. This would make that planned location significantly stronger, picking up the deer tile and the furs. Black dot, of course, would remain a weak city doing little more than working the clams and some grassland cottages. We didn't hold much hope of reaching the strong Yellow location before Jowy could take it, but hey, if his expansion was slow, then maybe...
Our quick summary of how our two neighbors had played their starts:Sullla:
That last line was meant as a playful joke, but unfortunately we would end up rubbing a lot of people the wrong way in this game, more and more so as time progressed. Many of the readers came to see us as arrogant and disdainful of the other teams, which had some element of truth in it. More on this later, as relations with the community of thread lurkers would eventually become as much a part of the game as the relations with the other players.
Speaker and I continued to post dueling worker micro plans, which I'll avoid repeating here for sake of brevity. As part of the process, we did draw up some spiffy illustrations though!
Roading of tiles appears in yellow, with date of planned completion. Farms and mines appear in white, and the sole planned forest chop shows up in red. (Speaker and I discussed whether or not to build so many roads; I argued that this was the perfect time to connect our cities together, as we had Wheel tech for roads, but still lacked Pottery to build cottages. Plus, we could get Blue dot founded faster by roading to the location.) Notice that we planned to add a farm at our second city of Antietam at a very early date; this was Speaker's suggestion, and we were able to get much of the farm completed "for free" while moving our Fast Workers between the two cities. Having just that one extra grassland farm would be key, allowing Antietam to increase its food surplus from +5 to +6 food/turn, increasing our flexibility greatly. Later we could choose to work grassland cottages, or swap over and add the farm for faster growth, or change to grassland mines if we needed production. Having the different options to choose between was key.
The first new international development of significance was the planting of Dantski's second city to our south, on Turn 42:
Djenne grabbed fish and an irrigated rice tile, plus was located on a small river and on the coast. It was a strong location for a second city, even having some grassland hills for additional production. You can't see it in this screenshot, but Dantski's capital was located just to the south, about five tiles past Djenne. We were close neighbors!
Having scouted our immediate vicinity, we could see that all of the best city locations were located to the north of our capital. Those spices would be useful someday, but not for quite some time in the pre-Calendar era. Given that we had zero plans to expand towards Dantski, we thought we would try and convince him to expand in the other direction as well, towards his southeastern neighbor of Nakor and DMOC:Killer Angels to Dantski:
Dear Romalinese friends,
We didn't hammer out anything too concrete - Dantski wanted to discuss things via chat session, and it was tough to coordinate with him being in Britain and us in the eastern US - but Dantski did agree that he wouldn't be settling north of Djenne, which was good enough for the moment. Not that he likely could have settled further north anyway! Meanwhile, Jowy was contacting us as well:Jowy to Killer Angels:
Hi once again!
Uh oh, the return of the dreaded "borders agreement" from the Apolyton Demogame! We weren't keen on negotiating a clear settlement of the lands between us, not least because we thought we could out-expand Jowy's start. I simply don't like borders agreement on general principle; better to let natural settling patterns determine how things shake out. We responded to Jowy by telling him that we still needed more time to explore the area, while reiterating that we had no plans for any aggressive settlements, and would be sticking to the area surrounding our capital. We made a point of wanting to deal fairly with Jowy, since we saw him as a good potential ally:Killer Angels to Jowy:
[...] More importantly, we want to deal with you honestly and fairly, and on that note both Speaker and I are not particularly keen on the whole idea of a borders agreement - at least not at this very early stage of the game. We haven't even reached 2000BC, and it seems silly to legislate who gets what land at this point in time. Many, many things could change over the course of the next 50 turns; we don't really want to be locked into inflexible arrangements so soon. Your team said much the same thing to us when we negotiated our original Non-Aggression Pact, you may recall.
That seemed to settle this issue, at least for the moment. We had good reason to believe that we were building a solid friendship with Jowy.
Out in the fog, other teams were starting to found their second city. Whosit (Rome) and plako (Korea) had led the way with cities on Turn 40, followed by Dantski (T42), Team Byzantium (T45), and finally Jowy and Nakor (T47). Byzantium further became the first team to found a religion, popping Buddhism in their newly planted second city on Turn 47. This stuff was all out in the fog, but we could track it thanks to CivStats and the Demographics table. And super-exploring warrior extraordinare Chamberlain was able to reveal Jowy's starting location:
Although we lacked visibility on the center tile of both cities, we could tell from the cultural borders where they had to be placed. We actually would be able to see Athens, the Greek capital, were it not for the forest tile located northwest of our unit. (Forests block visibility on tiles behind them.) Notice also how I circled that same tile in red: we can see that Athens is working the tile, which is not the optimal play. You want to minimize the working of improved tiles as much as possible - the capital city probably shouldn't be working an unimproved grassland forest 50 turns into the game.
We planted our own third city on Turn 50, the same turn that our workers laid down the first cottage at Gettysburg. A banner year!
Our military at the time consisted of four warriors and four Fast Workers. Definitely pushing growth, no doubt about it. And the Turn 50 Demographics:
Note how even though we had little military to speak of, we were rated as average in Soldier Count, and no one was running away with things. There was absolutely no indication that either of our neighbors was planning an early rush; Jowy still only had two warriors (thanks to the scout start and losing his first warrior to barb animals), while Dantski's military was tied up in skirmishers. He could choke us with them, but we didn't read Dantski as having that kind of personality, and we were correct. With copper in our borders and about to be hooked up, we simply weren't in any danger at the moment. That allowed us to continue focusing on growing upwards and outwards.
The Demographics were starting to reflect this. Although our GNP and Production were merely average, we had already pushed out to a small lead in overall Food - and that despite buiding the 4 workers and 2 settlers. More than any other stat, Food is the key indicator of early game strength. It shows quite visibily who is growing the fastest, and a good player at this game can turn an edge in Food into a lead in any other category needed. Early game GNP is overrated, and too easily influenced by culture; watch the Food graph instead!
After several weeks of typing out worker plans in Notepad, Speaker pointed out the foolishness of this and cleaned things up in Excel:
This was the first of six or seven such worker micro plans we would develop, and much of our early discussion surrounded these actions. Hey, there's not too much else to do in the early game aside from moving workers and tracking Cloak and Dagger stuff!
Amongst our neighbors, we were surprised to see that Jowy rushed to research Iron Working early on, discovering the tech on Turn 52. We couldn't understand why he would prioritize iron so much, although we would later discover the reason: Jowy had no copper anywhere close by. That was unfortunate for him, and probably a slight gaffe on the part of the mapmakers too. I don't think it changed much overall though. With further growth, our total "Food + Production" stat was up to 44, and the Rival Best in both categories only added up to 33. Yes, we were starting to get a bit of a lead thanks to that fantastic start!
We couldn't understand what was going on with athlete and kalin, the Ottoman team. They had just their starting two cities, with the capital whipped all the way down to size 1! The Ottoman capital had been whipped no fewer than four times in barely over 50 turns. Well, SOMETHING was obviously going on with them; we met one of their warriors and had contact with our third team:
Hello Masterful India,
Hearing that we were close to the Byzantine borders was great news, as we could expect to contact more teams in the near future. athlete was friendly and polite in the opening round of greetings; with their team located so far away (three teams past us in the clockwise direction around the Donut), we figured that we would have no real conflicts or grievances. Indeed, just as athlete promised, we walked into Byzantine borders the next turn:
Where we were immediately greeted by a long intro message from regoarrarr, which I'll avoid posting here to save space. Byzantium's team of darrelljs, regoarrarr, and sunrise were viewed as our biggest rival to win the game, on paper anyway. They had great micromanagement skills, practice in online warfare against human players, and strong diplomatic experience. However, literally the same turn that we made contact with Byzantium, we found out what the Ottomans had been doing with their two cities, and that this game was not going to go according to the way we expected:
Hello to the Indian Team,
Wow, wow, wow! Talk about big early game developments. athlete and kalin were pushing all of their chips into the middle of the table and betting on the early game chariot rush against the aggressive Byzantine city placement. (I've posted one of athlete's pictures above showing the war zone.) Despite having lots of excellent land around their starting position, the Byzantines had gotten greedy and placed their second city some seven or eight tiles away, and defended it with only warriors. The battle would come down to three warriors defending against four chariots, and...
Just like that, the Byzantine city of Paris had fallen to the Ottoman armies. Out of the four chariots, one died and the other three won successfully, capturing the city with the last attacker and no units to spare. Keep in mind that Paris was the Buddhist Holy city, and had some extremely good land surrounding it - this was a gigantic turnaround in the fortunes of these two civilizations. Even worse for Byzantium, Paris had been planted near their closest copper resource, and their capital city did not have any strategic resources connected. They did have horses just outside Athens, however the Byzantine team had delayed Animal Husbandry so long that it remained invisible to them, and still unconnected. With Ottoman chariots tearing around the property, Byzantium was about to get pillaged back to the Stone Age, unable to build anything but resourceless archers. Yikes!
The play by the Ottoman team of athlete and kalin had thus worked out brilliantly, probably beyond their wildest dreams of success. But in all honesty, this plan of attack SHOULD NOT have worked! Let's go through and consider some of the mistakes made by the Byzantine team:
Using some of the Byzantine pictures now, for the other perspective. First of all, the placement of Paris was simply too aggressive; six tiles away from Athens, and only five tiles away from the Ottoman capital itself. With no horses and no Construction tech for bridges over rivers, it took a full four turns for units to travel between the two Byzantine cities. Meanwhile, Ottoman units could move out of the fog and next to Paris on any turn, ready to attack the following turn. That's an impossible tactical position to be in, unless you have very strong defenses at the targeted point.
Secondly, the entirety of the Byzantine military consisted of three warriors at this point in time, with another warrior under production in Paris. And yet despite being in this vulnerable position, the team was building... Oracle in the capital?!? Seriously, what? No marble, no Industrious, and yet the team was still placing a giant priority on the Oracle. That was just a terrible, terrible misplay. I honestly don't know what they were thinking.
Next, look at the team research: Archery, due in 2 turns. Look, you do NOT make a city plant this aggressive without even having Archery tech!!! You're simply asking for trouble when settling up on another team's borders with mere warriors. When the attack did come:
Paris could only swap to an archer, and could NOT whip the unit because the tech had been discovered literally the same turn. (The archer would have to be whipped at the swapping penalty, and the city only had 1 pop available for whipping.) If Archery had been discovered even one turn sooner, Paris could have whipped an archer and would have been saved.
Finally, the position of the city itself really leaves the reader scratching their head. Paris could have been planted one tile (or even better, two tiles) to the west with no real loss in quality. That land was highly fertile regardless, and moving two tiles west would lose the deer tile to pick up an irrigated wheat tile. It would also grab the river grassland copper tile - one of the best in the game! - instead of having it sit uselessly one tile outside the borders. I understand that the idea was to use Holy City culture to get the copper quickly, but that's still a 20-turn delay in getting copper connected. While right on the border with a neighboring civ. Come on.
Even one more warrior in Paris would have been enough to save the city, after which an archer could have been whipped and the city protected against further incursion. Why there was a warrior walking around north of the city, therefore out of position to get back inside when the attack came, remains a bizarre tactical decision. And it's not like this attack came out of the blue; athlete and kalin had foolishly built a road in plain view of Paris, right on their border, and alerted the Byzantine team to some suspicious behavior. (The Ottoman side of the war was similarly mismanaged, only getting four chariots when proper chopping and lumberjacking could have had 8-10, and building that entirely unnecessary road on the border! But it did succeed, and so we shouldn't say too much about their errors.)
The diplomatic fallout from this incident was rather ugly as well. athlete deliberately lied to the Byzantine team, and claimed that he had "accidentally" moved some of the units along the border, due to connection problems with the server, prompting this response from Byzantium:regoarrarr to Ottomans:
Of course, on their part, the Byzantine team had been engaged in Non-Aggression Pact discussions with the Ottomans while trying to race a settler up to their border. That may not have been technically against any kind of agreement, but it was certainly in violation of the spirit of the negotiations under discussion. In any case, there was some real bad blood between the two teams, and some of the discussions by email and in the general discussion thread grew quite heated. I wish I could say that this wasn't a pattern throughout the game, but unfortunately it would be.
Meanwhile, back in our corner of the world, we were trying to figure out what was going on while remaining neutral and talking to both sides. athlete and regoarrarr both had predictably different accounts of the struggle, and with us being so far away, we mostly just wished both sides good luck. It wasn't like there was much that we could do to influence events over there. Our sympathies did rest with the Byzantine team, however, as the fact that they had been crippled made them the obvious underdog to support. If they went down, there would be a monster Ottoman civ developing over there in the east, which could only spell bad news for us! We were also a bit suspicious about athlete, given the rather underhanded way in which he had lied about the war's buildup. Regardless, the longer their war went on, with units being wasted on both sides, the better off the rest of the teams in the game would be.
We also met IKZ at this time:
The Incan team was further to the east on the Donut, located past the Ottoman team. We found that IKZ rarely said much of anything, and ignored the bulk of our emails. With their team located on the other side of the world, there wasn't much contact between us.
Domestically, we did a forest chop + double-whip to complete a library in Gettysburg once we had Writing tech. The idea there was to run a Scientist specialist for 9 turns and produce an early Great Scientist for Academy, after which we would be getting a 75% research bonus in our capital (which was already up to three Financial grassland river cottages!) In terms of further city planting:
Pink and Black are left unchanged. Since we moved Chancellorsville a tile west of the original location, I think we should consider putting White on the tile indicated (we had it 1 SW before). That cuts down on overlap considerably, and still gets us a very powerful Moai city (8 water tiles, plus 3 hills). And we could also pass the deer back and forth between Chancellorsville and White at need. Pink, White, and Chancellorsville would then form our border with Jowy down the road, with the slight possibility of more cities to the northeast in the fog.
Speaker agreed that these were strong city locations, although he was dubious about the chances of us landing the White spot on the northern coast (I agreed). Notice also where Dantski placed the city of Kumbi Saleh in the south; yes, it did have a plains gold hill, but the only food bonus was an unirrigated rice tile buried under mounds of jungle. This was a city that needed massive worker labor for improvement, and that was one thing that Dantski didn't have in great supply. We thought this was a weak location for his third city: poor food bonuses, needed lots of worker help, almost impossible to defend against a serious attack. Just compare to Antietam and Chancellorsville, each with food bonuses and river grassland tiles and forming a neat defensive matrix!
We met Whosit's Rome in the southeast shortly thereafter, despite the fact that we knew he was quite a long distance away. In passing with our scouting warrior, we also found Nakor's Holy Rome. Only needed a few more contacts now, and with Whosit so far away, we didn't have much in the way of conversation with him. Nakor was merely on the other side of Dantski, and we'd spend a lot of time going back and forth with each other. For the moment, everyone was content to exchange minor pleasantries in diplo emails.
Fredericksburg soon became our fourth city:
This is the way you go for a gold resource, building a strong network of roads and supporting cities, and only planting the city when it can be defended with real (non-warrior) units. Dantski lacked the former, Byzantium lacked the latter in planting their gold cities! Our next discussion went back and forth over the location of the following city, with Speaker favoring the safer Black dot location, and me favoring the stronger but more insecure White dot. We agreed for the moment on the Black dot location, subject to revision if conditions changed down the road.
Further exploration revealed plako's Korean civ:
That was our last contact, and brought us in touch with everyone by Turn 72. We weren't the first team to meet everyone, but I do think we managed pretty well overall, especially given our worker-heavy opening which didn't leave many units around for scouting purposes.
We generated our Great Scientist on Turn 73 and used him for an Academy in Gettysburg, as expected. Speaker played the turn and so I don't have a picture of that taking place, however I do have this shot of the Demographics from the same turn:
Still tops in Food, second in Production (although someone was really pumping the shields!), and most importantly, more than double anyone else in GNP! With our edge in Population and Land area, we were all set to blast past the rest of the teams in research power and leave them in the dust. We still had the most cities, the most workers, the most improved tiles, and the most city infrastructure. We couldn't be doing too much better than this.
Unfortunately for us, research power and Demographics excellence meant jealousy and hostility from the other teams in the game. The following years would be a period of growing tensions...