Watch this game on YouTube (Playlist Link)
This is a quick writeup for my Roman Seafarers game that took place on Livestream in September and October 2020. There was a great deal of interest from my Livestream viewers in continuing with more Civ4 content after the conclusion of Season Five of Civ4 AI Survivor, and I decided to put together a naval-themed game on an Archipelago map for the next effort. I thought for a bit before starting this venture and eventually settled on Julius Caesar as the leader of choice. Organized is a fantastic trait for water maps since virtually every city will need a lighthouse and I also hadn't featured the trait on stream in any of my past games. The other trait wasn't as important to me but I figured that Imperialistic was always handy to have. Helpfully, it was also a trait that I hadn't used in recent games. As for the Romans, their Praetorian unique unit is always excellent for early skirmishes with barbarians or AI leaders and their starting techs get a nice buff when using Archipelago settings. Fishing/Mining becomes a lot better when the capital city will almost certainly have at least one seafood resource on hand.
The AI doesn't perform as well on water maps in Civ4 and therefore I thought there would be no problem in bumping this game up to Immortal difficulty. I used all of my other normal settings and rolled a Small sized map to cut down on the micromangement if I decided to go conquering. This was a game where the first map immediately produced the strong opening position seen above with four seafood resources and a plains cow. I spent several minutes thinking over the different places to situate the capital before finally deciding on the plains hill tile indicated above. This required a move on Turn 1 but grabbed the fish resource (the most valuable of the water resources) along with the 2 production center tile and even served to act as a canal city between the northern and southern bodies of water. This led to a chat suggestion to name the city "Suez" and it proved to be a great choice for a capital city. It also ensured that the second city would be going three tiles to the west, at the mouth of that little river over there, where it could pick up the other two clams and trade tiles backa and forth with the capital. I opened with Bronze Working research for Slavery civic and worked the 0/3 plains hill tile to pop out a work boat as soon as the capital's borders expanded, then went into Hunting/Animal Husbandry and built the initial worker at size 2. This was a perfect sequence that fit Rome's starting techs like a glove and the game was off and rolling thereafter.
It turned out that there was a small peninsula to the southwest that quickly ran out of land and then a larger continent that extended north and east in the other direction. It became clear right away that there were no other AI leaders on this landmass (I would have restarted if I had been stuck in a sardine can with one of them) and I was able to run minimal defenses throughout the early game. There were lots of turns where three or four warriors were fogbusting the starting continent and standing in locations that ruled out the possibility of barbarians spawning. My top early goal was landing the Great Lighthouse to unlock the two extra trade routes in every city. That wonder is definitely overpowered on water maps and I had lots of forests in the starting area to bulldoze in an attempt to build it. I decided to plant the third city in a terrible spot in the southwest solely to grab furs for extra happiness and to bring more forests into Roman borders for chopping purposes. Poor Furcingetorix would never be much of a city but it did its job and sacrificed itself for the benefit of the wider empire. I whipped a cheap Organized lighthouse in the second city and cashed in eight forest chops to bring the project to a successful completion on Turn 67:
I don't know how close the AI leaders were to finishing this wonder but you can't mess around on the higher difficulties where they receive major growth and production bonuses. Later on in this game, I targeted the Colossus as another wonder with massive value for an archipelago map. Despite an early research of Metal Casting tech, one of the AI leaders knocked out the wonder before I could even get started on it. The other half of the water-based wonders was not to be in this game. Anyway, I had sacrificed on the growth curve to finish the Great Lighthouse and having only four cities (one of them an icy village lacking a single food bonus) was pretty sad for an Imperialistic leader. But the Great Lighthouse unlocked my civ as far as commerce went, allowing me to push out more cities without suffering bankruptcy under the harsh Immmortal costs. Expansion was the name of the game now and I would spend the next 100 turns racing to grab as much of the remaining islands as possible before they could be claimed by the AI leaders.
The first goal was acquiring an overseas city to start raking in some intercontinental trade route income. I've never liked this addition from Beyond the Sword since it makes it way too profitable to stick one or two cities on a little island and suddenly get 2 commerce or 3 commerce trade routes everywhere else. Nonetheless, you have to play the game as it exists and not as you would want it to be and that made those overseas cities very valuable quantities indeed. The picture above captures where the first of those cities would be located, with Vicino di Mare planted on the "X" tile to grab a crab resource and share the clam resources as needed with Clamnation. That landmass turned out to be a small island with a barbarian city in the north, situated in between the Roman homeland and the Korean starting continent further to the west. Wang Kon made no move to settle there after I grabbed Vicino and we were able to coexist in harmony. I tried to explore further to the west but there were no coastal passages available. I would have to wait for caravels to make further progress there.
This meant that any further expansion would have to take place to the east. By Turn 100 I was out to eight cities and continuing to push out more units as fast as I could train them. It was a pure "REX" scenario to use the term from the old Apolyton forums (rapid expansion) with no need to worry about military defenses for the moment. The biggest issue in these scenarios is making sure that each city has enough worker labor and fishing boats to get their growth curve off and rolling. Cities that lack improved tiles are virtually useless in Civ4 and there's no point in tossing out settlers faster than you can support the new cities. This can be a huge problem for Imperialistic leaders since their settlers are so cheap, available via a 2 pop whip basically anywhere the player desires. Since almost every city had at least one seafood resource of some kind, I was also trying to manage the logistics of having older cities train work boats for the newer cities and have them arrive on time to connect the food resources immediately. I was not playing as a Creative leader here and that also meant needing to situate each city so that the food bonuses were in the first ring if at all possible. I was really trying to hammer this point home for the viewers: a city that has to stop and wait for a monument to be built and borders to expand is simply too slow. It hurts the development curve too much. There were some places where seafood resources were unavoidably out in the second ring but that's a situation that you want to avoid if at all possible. Fortunately I did have a religion to spread thanks to picking up Confucianism from Wang Kon and that helped a lot. It gave me yet another vector to manage though: several new cities needed workers and a work boat and a missionary simultaneously!
Juggling all of these priorities was the core of the gameplay in these early turns and they were a lot of fun to manage. There was a serious shortage of happiness resources on the starting island and I was forced to make due for long turns on end with only the furs resource from little Furcingetorix. I prioritized Monarchy tech and Hereditary Rule civic as a result and the capital wound up with four or five warriors stuffed inside to increase the happiness cap. I also suffered from a lack of strategic resources, as there was no copper and no horses anywhere to be found. There was a single iron resource located in the desert as pictured above, and this was the main reason why I founded Ceretae despite requiring a border pop to acquire its fish resource. An early missionary supplied religion and allowed the fish + iron to be connected after 10 turns. With iron in hand I was finally able to train some Praetorians for the first time and could use them to clear out the nearby barbarian cities. There was the one very strong location to the west on Vicino's island and then another pair of lower-quality barb cities off to the east beyond the borders of 2 Fish 2 Furious. That spot had double fish resources and I used it for Moai Statues, eventually becoming arguably my strongest city. I would eventually capture all three barbarian locations and kept all of them even though one poor spot had zero food resources. With the Great Lighthouse and its trade route income there really wasn't any location worth razing.
By Turn 150, I had entirely settled my starting continent and was looking to push further afield. There turned out to be another snaky continent to the north but there was no easy coastal-based route up there. I had to sail up the coastline of the eastern barbarian island via a very circuitous route and that made settlement of the north a logistical nightmare. The solution to this problem was to prioritize an early Astronomy tech despite the very pricey cost of the research. I had already grabbed Optics tech and then whipped out seven caravels to explore the rest of the map and lock down the circumnavigation bonus. Those sailors defogged the map in rapid order and revealed the remaining AI opponents for this game: Saladin, Joao, and Willem. Saladin was clearly the big dog amongst these leaders with almost a dozen cities scattered amongst his starting continent and several smaller islands. Joao had his own medium-sized island and poor Willem was stuck with only four cities. They were all well behind me in both expansion and research, another sign that the AI simply doesn't handle water maps as well as land-based ones.
Once Astronomy research completed on Turn 151, the race was on to grab the remaining open territory in the north and east. I had to fight off the barbarians in the process and multiple caravels were sent to the bottom of the ocean by barbarian galleys in low-odds combats. I think that I lost 88% and 96% combats on back-to-back turns or something like that; it was bad enough that we named one future city in the area "Ship Graveyard" in commemoration of those unlucky souls. Still, this is why Civ4 is a strategy game and not a tactical game, and having all those caravels on hand came in very handy to clear the path forward for the other ships. Galleons had even better odds against barbarian galleys and soon the seas were swept clear of pirates. I was able to get two more cities in the far east and lock out Saladin from any potential settlements of his own. Up in the north, I would add half a dozen more cities of my own over the following turns along with capturing a barbarian city for a seventh spot:
Saladin settled the city of Yamama on a little island with no food resources and we renamed the captured barbarian city to "Yapapa" in response when it fell shortly thereafter. The old Praetorians with City Raider promotions were still earning their keep. This revealed that the north was actually the western extention of the world's largest continent where Saladin and Willem had originally started. Saladin had cut off Willem's expansion with his city placements along with the presence of that barb city and therefore left the Dutch as a stunted rump state. I was highly pleased at reaching this part of the map before two AI leaders who had started on this same landmass. This area was most significant for containing wheat, rice, and corn resources that I didn't have anywhere else in my territory along with the closest source of horses available. Yes, that horse pasture east of Black Forest was the only horse resource that I could find and it was still out in the third ring. This wasn't a game for knights or cavalry which fortunately are a lot less necessary when ships can reach almost every city on the map.
In terms of research, I emphasized the bottom portion of the tech tree much more than usual. My goal was unlocking frigates at Chemistry followed by cannons at Steel tech for use against the AI leaders. This meant making some sacrifices elsewhere on the tech tree, such as ignoring the whole Aesthetics branch for most of the game. I only built the Heroic Epic at a late date and I never did build the National Epic or Globe Theatre or claim the free Great Artist at Music tech. However, the tradeoff was having access to significant military power at an earlier date and I was able to leverage that to its full extent. I triggered my first Golden Age with a single Great Person to swap civics into Free Market and Pacifism while using the combined +200% GPP generation to produce two more Great People before it ran out. A lucky 50/50 dice roll at 2 Fish 2 Furious produced an Engineer that turned into Taj Mahal for another 8 turns of Golden Age, followed by triggering a third Golden Age with the pair of Great People generated previously. These Golden Ages allowed me to accelerate the development of my new colonies and push research first to Steel tech (which was grabbed with the Liberalism free prize) and then on towards Rifling.
Meanwhile, I had already swapped into Nationhood at the first opportunity and began mass drafting muskets out of my cities. The draft is especially powerful on water-based maps because there are fewer land tiles to be used for production. I had about two dozen cities at this point which was almost enough to run a full draft cycle. You can draft 3 cities per turn on a Small map and the unhappiness runs out after 10 turns, thus the ideal number of cities before running over the limit would be 30. I switched from Pacifism into Theocracy as soon as I had generated my desired Great People and managed to reach Rifling tech for the second round of drafting. The first units were muskets and then all the rest would be rifles. I was building a mixture of ships and cannons from my cities since neither one could be drafted and then the conscripted units would be plenty to kill the defensive units of the AI leaders once the city defenses were down.
Wang Kon was the first target with the initial war starting on Turn 202. He'd been a great ally throughout the game and I felt bad about taking his cities... but not so bad that it stopped me from capturing them. The pattern was the same in each case: first the frigates bombard out the city's cultural defenses and sink any enemy ships that might be in the water. None of the AI leaders had reached Astronomy tech which meant that their galleys and caravels were sitting ducks against frigates. I would land the muskets/rifles on shore along with any cannons present, and City Raider II cannons easily had odds to win against the longbow and musket defenders while inflicting collateral damage against everything in sight. Then the draftees could clean up from there with no trouble. There were even a handful of upgraded City Raider rifles left over from the Praetorian clashes with the barbarians earlier which could be used to wipe out particularly obnoxious defenders. This was all very routine and I've done it before in a number of games; I think the best writeup comes from the old Epic Three game with the Incans. The newest wrinkle in this game was picking up a series of Great Generals which I used for a bunch of Medic III units to keep the offensive rolling along. I even wound up with a Medic III galleon which was pretty funny to watch in action.
With every city under attack sitting along the coastline, there was no place for the AI leaders to run and hide from my ships. They have no idea how to fight back against this kind of assault and crumpled in rapid fashion. Wang Kon was gone in a dozen turns and then I continued straight onwards into the underbelly of Arabia from there. The capital city of Mecca held Chichen Itza and I made sure to grab that quickly to avoid having to get through those additional defenses everywhere else. The initial attackers were joined by a second offensive launching from the east over at Yapapa using yet another wave of drafted units. I was popping out three rifles every single turn and that inevitably meant a massive slaughter against the medieval armies of my opponents. This was the window to crush them before they could unlock their own rifles and I took full advantage of it. These turns took a long time to play out in real-world time thanks to the logistics of moving so many ships and rifles around which is why I generally don't do this sort of thing too often. I've always been pretty good at managing large scale logistics in the Civilization games and this conquest proceeded very efficiently. It took 11 turns to eliminate Korea followed by 12 turns to eliminate Saladin and then Domination arrived 3 turns after invading Willem. The Dutch would have been gone in three more turns due to the need to walk inland to capture their final remaining cities. Nice and easy. At least I was able to demonstrate some of the mechanics of galleon-chaining on Livestream which is one of the more advanced tactical moves on naval maps.
Pictured above is the Roman doom stack of 16 frigates and 6 fully loaded galleons about to cross the Dutch border and deliver the final blow. This was a fun game and a solid performance to defeat the AI leaders this quickly on Immortal difficuly. Yes, they don't handle the water maps anywhere near as well and this game did showcase some of the weaker aspects of Civ4's balancing (Great Lighthouse and drafting). Nonetheless, I think it holds up pretty well and I'm happy with how this game shook out. Thanks to all of the viewers who helped make the final few hours of moving ships and units around a lot more entertaining on my part.