We're back to a smaller field again for the fifth game in the series. This time, the leader draw produced a grudge match between a pair of American presidents, along with an interesting division between military despots and passive peaceniks.
Augustus has never attracted that much notoriety as a leader in Civ4, perhaps because of his late inclusion in the second expansion and generally mediocre traits. Augustus brings Imperialistic and Industrious traits, a pair that are generally anti-synergistic with one another. Imperialistic wants a widely spread out empire, while Industrious does better with fewer and smaller cities. As one of the Roman leaders, Augustus is noteworthy for bringing the mighty Praetorian unique unit, along with the unimpressive Forum building. Augustus the AI has production and military flavors, and is best known for heavily emphasizing wonders (8/10 rating). He's mostly average across the board otherwise, below average in aggression rating (4.3 out of 10), but expect to see Augustus focus on building those wonders. He's somewhat surprisingly considered to be a very "Good" leader in terms of peace weight alignment. Augustus will probably hope this game remains peaceful and he can try to win via wonders and culture.
Hammurabi was one of the few leaders included in the original Civilization game, and I always thought it was unusual that he didn't reappear in Civ4 until the Beyond the Sword expansion. Hammurabi has Aggressive and Organized traits, a decent second-tier pairing, particularly in the hands of the AI. Hammurabi is the only Babylonian leader, and makes use of the Bowman unique unit archer, and the Gardens unique unit colosseum. These are both pretty bad, and the only reason anyone ever picks Babylon in our events is for their awesome starting techs (Agriculture and The Wheel). Hammurabi AI is another one of the rare leaders with only one flavor: CULTURE. He'll heavily emphasize researching techs with a cultural bent to them. Hammurabi's AI otherwise looks like a carbon copy of Augustus, with the same heavy wonder focus (8/10) and a slightly higher aggression rating (5.5 out of 10). He also shares the identical peace weight as a "Good" leader. Basically, Augustus AI and Hammurabi AI will play very similar games and hope to win through peaceful or cultural means.
Kublai Khan is the first leader from the other side of the alignment coin, a much more aggressive ruler and someone predisposed to dislike the "Good" leaders. Kublai has Aggressive and Creative traits, a combination that often works well on cramped Pangaea maps. Like Genghis Khan Temujin, he has the Keshik unique unit and the Ger unique building, both of which are above average. Kublai has military and cultural flavors, and at first glance looks very similar to Augustus and Hammurabi. He even has a fondness for wonders (6/10) and an aggression rating that's only a little bit higher (6.4 out of 10). The difference lies in Kublai's peace weight, which ranks him as an "Evil" leader at the other end of the spectrum from Augustus and Hammurabi. This will cause major tensions between the leaders, and make it very difficult for them to get along. So despite having a similar AI personality overall, Kublai may find himself on the other end of a war declaration from Augustus and Hammurabi.
Abraham Lincoln is the first of two American leaders that we have making an apperance in this game. The odds suggested we were almost certain to get at least one such pairing; the only surprise is that it took five games to reach that point. Lincoln has Charismatic and Philosophical traits, a pairing that's not particularly impressive. He is also tied to the terrible American civilization, with its too-late-to-matter Navy SEAL and Mall unique items. Maybe this will be the rare game where we get to see them in action. Lincoln the AI has science and growth flavors for his research. You're never going to believe this, but his favorite civic is Emancipation. That one was probably a little too easy! Lincoln AI is extremely peaceful in this game, pacifistic even. His aggression rating stands at 0.8 out of 10, the second lowest in the game behind Gandhi. It's easy to get on Lincoln's good side and hard to get on his bad side. Lincoln AI has a sainty peace weight as another "Good" leader, which will inspire love from some of our competitors and hatred from others. I'd like to see Lincoln do well, but I have a bad feeling that he might run afoul of our next fellow here.
Ragnar is essentially the polar opposite of Lincoln. The Great Emancipator is the second most peaceful leader in the game; Ragnar is the second most warlike, behind Montezuma and only by a fingernail. Ragnar has Aggressive and Financial traits, which has often made him a popular pick in our Pitboss games. His Viking civ has the Berserker unique unit and the Trading Post unique building, both of which are extremely strong on water maps. They probably won't do too much on a Pangaea though. Anyway, Ragnar's traits and civilization are both above average, but what sets him apart is his AI personality. Ragnar AI is another leader in the Montezuma / Temujin / Shaka mold. He has only one flavor: MILITARY. He builds units at a ridiculous pace (10/10 rating). And as mentioned before, Ragnar is the second most likely leader to declare war in the game, with an aggression rating of 9.9 out of 10. That's a normalized score based off of Montezuma's AI, which shows that there's virtually no difference between Ragnar and Monty. Ragnar also sits at the bottom of the peace weight scale, ranked as low as it's possible to go as an "Evil" leader. He's going to be predisposed to hate these peaceful builders, and with such a gigantic focus on military, Ragnar will have a great opportunity to go conquering. I think Ragnar has drawn a fantastic setup, and he's the easy favorite to top this group.
George Washington is the other American leader in this game, as we've got a presidential grudge match going on. Washington has Charismatic and Expansive traits, which are a bit subpar and a far cry from Washington's original Financial / Organized pairing in the pre-expansion days. Like Lincoln, Washington is stuck with a weak batch of unique stuff by virtue of playing as the Americans. Washington AI has military and growth flavors, and comes off as more militaristic than the pacifist Lincoln. Washington is very average across the board in his various ratings, with the one exception that he likes to carry out espionage missions. His aggression rating is still low (4.3 out of 10), albeit much higher than Lincoln. Washington AI also has a high peace weight, putting him firmly in the camp of the "Good" leaders. He'll need to draw a good start and use the Expansive trait to get off and rolling quickly if he wants to do well in this game.
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Overall, this one will almost certainly break down along the lines of the "peace weight" mechanic. We have four leaders who are all rated very high in having "Good" alignment in Augustus, Hammurabi, Lincoln, and Washington. They are thrown into the mix with two leaders who fall very far down on the same scale, with Kublai Khan and especially Ragnar grading out as "Evil" leaders. It will be very difficult for leaders from the two groups to get along with one another diplomatically. I believe that the game will go one of two ways. In one scenario, the peacenik leaders either eliminate the militaristic ones or out-tech them into irrelevance, and then the four of them happily compete for a Cultural or Spaceship win in one giant lovefest. In the other scenario, Kublai and Ragnar mercilessly crush the goody-goodys and are the only ones left standing at the end of the game, with one of the two winning by Domination. I doubt we'll see too much in between those outcomes. Should be fun to see which one pops up.
The AI leaders did some weird things with their bonus Deity settlers this time. Kublai Khan was about the only one to expand towards the center of the map, while Ragnar, Washington, and Lincoln all headed in the opposite direction. With Hammurabi also expanding directly to his east, this left a vast gaping empty region in the dead center of the continent. I wondered who would be the one to push for that land. As far as AI capitals went, they were all pretty strong in this game, especially Ragnar with his hillside pigs + double gold resources. Kublai probably had the worst capital, with double plains cows for food. However, he also had double ivory resources to play around with, and that was enough to keep me from going in and editing the land. I'd rather let these games play out naturally, letting the random terrain serve as part of the fun.
This was the first game where none of the leaders were playing as civilizations that start with Mysticism tech. Anyone had a fair shot at founding Hinduism or Buddhism. As it turned out, Washington went for Mysticism first, followed by Meditation, and he would become the founder of Buddhism in his second city of Boston.
Check out that totally awesome placement of the second city, by the way. I usually don't highlight this stuff too much, since if I catalogued all of the AI stupidity these reports would be 100 pages long, but sometimes you just have to take a screenshot and shake your head. Good one, dude. Anyway, Hinduism went to Hammurabi a few turns later in a photo finish over Lincoln. The other American just barely missed founding the religion by a single turn. Without any true religious zealots in this game, there was plenty of room for someone to found Judaism or Confucianism and create more religious blocs of nations. I wondered if we would see a Confucian empire for the first time in this series.
Turn 32 was certainly a busy one. Augustus finished Stonehenge in his capital, granting him the mini-Creative trait in all of his new cities. Augustus was already pushing up against the borders of Ragnar, and that looked like it had trouble written all over it. Ragnar's third city had just claimed copper, and Augustus didn't appear to have copper anywhere near his cities. He did have iron in the near vicinity, making this a race against time to get iron settled and connected before the inevitable war declaration from the Vikings to the north. Elsewhere, Hammurabi became the founder of Judaism, which popped up in a city dangerously close to Kublai's borders. Hammurabi's third city actually appeared to poach the spot that Kublai wanted for his own third city. I really felt that Augustus and Hammurabi were playing with fire here. How long were the game's two most aggressive leaders going to remain at peace when being provoked like this?
Most of the map was settled after 50 turns, except in the dead center where the barbarians still held sway. Three different barb cities blocked AI entry into this part of the continent. Numidian and Harappan were both located on top of hills, which would made it that much more difficult to dislodge their defensive archers. The AI has a lot of trouble clearing those barb cities, even here on Deity. They could last for dozens of turns yet to come. All of the AI leaders were very close in score, and the map was filling up rapidly. The first wars couldn't be too far off.
Lincoln built the Great Wall, beating out several other leaders who had been trying for the same thing. He was probably the leader with the least cause to build the thing, sheltered from barbs as he was on his peninsula in the northeast. Washington built the much more useful Oracle, and grabbed Metal Casting with the free tech as the AI typically does. Augustus was going after yet another wonder, this time targeting the Great Lighthouse in his capital. He would indeed finish it on Turn 68. Meanwhile, Ragnar had already teched both Horseback Riding and Construction (making good use of those gold resources at his capital), and surely was planning something nefarious. Here's the kind of effect that peace weight can have on diplomacy:
Ragnar barely even knows half of these leaders, but his "Evil" rating via peace weight causes all of the "Good" leaders to dislike him from the start. Ragnar and Kublai were on good terms for the same reason. This stuff doesn't always make sense, of course: Ragnar's worst enemy was Lincoln, and Kublai's worst enemy was Augustus. Uh, why not one of the leaders right on their borders? A bit strange there. Still, peace weight does explain a lot of what goes on between these AIs, in addition to the standard diplomatic stuff like different religions and so on. This was one game where it was unusually apparent, with the leaders so heavily split into two camps.
Yeah, there we go. I knew that the peace couldn't last much longer, not with super aggressive Ragnar sitting next to wonder-building pacifist Augustus. The Romans had recently finished Iron Working research, and their workers were in the process of mining an iron resource inside their borders, but Augustus did not have it connected yet when this war broke out. He wouldn't be able to field Praetorians for a few more turns. Ragnar was predictably first in military power compared to the last place value of Augustus, although admittedly there wasn't a huge difference between the two. Augustus had nearly all archers and chariots at this point, and he'd been suiciding a number of them against the closest barbarian city to no purpose for the last dozen or so turns. Augustus had to get his military sorted out in a hurry, because the Viking invaders were at the gates.
No amount of wizardry would have been enough to save Ravenna, which fell to Ragnar almost immediately. Amazingly, Augustus contined to build the Pyramids in his third city while this war took place. Come on Augustus, I know you're Industrious and you have stone and all, but there are higher priorities right now! Unfortunately for Ragnar, he was very slow in moving over to attack Antium and bomb out its defenses. By the time that the Vikings were ready to attack, Augustus had managed to get a few praetorians inside. Ragnar's attack wound up as a complete failure, and he lost his entire stack without killing much of anything. This threatened to turn the war around completely. Augustus recaptured Ravenna the next turn, and we were back to square one.
Here was the overview map at roughly the end of the landgrab phase. It was still remarkably even between the six competing AI leaders, with all of them bunched fairly closely together on the scoreboard. Washington had pulled slightly ahead while the cramped Hammurabi was just a bit behind the rest of the pack. The AI leaders had done a better job than I expected at clearing out the barbarians, using swords on the attack to kill barb archers. One barb city each had gone to Lincoln, Hammurabi, and Washington. There remained a substantial amount of ice to settle in the extreme south, essentially worthless although of course the AI would still grab it eventually. Washngton had to be the tentative favorite for the moment, although it was important to keep in mind that he was globally unpopular due to his Buddhist faith. That one hadn't spread too much to anyone else, and Washington was the only practitioner for the moment. Hinduism was otherwise popular in the east, and Judaism had caught on in the west. Ragnar founded Confucianism the following turn from Code of Laws, and that threw yet another monkey wrench into the religious picture. It was a lot more confusing than those previous games that basically only had two religions in operation.
Ragnar and Augustus made peace a couple turns later. That war had not gone well for the Vikings at all, and Augustus had actually passed him in power by the time they signed peace. Praetorians as a unique unit had made a gigantic difference, the biggest I had seen in any of these games so far with the possible exception of Justinian's cataphracts. With the southwest now quiet, peaceful turns continued to pass one at a time. Lincoln built the Temple of Artemis and the Hanging Gardens, adding score points and doing little else to better his situation. Ragnar converted to his self-founded Confucian religion, making him even more unpopular globally. Then on Turn 100, Ragnar couldn't help himself:
Back for another war again with Augustus, round two. Augustus was actually higher in power on the bar charts, and surely better prepared for this war than the previous one. It was hard to see this working out well for Ragnar. The Viking leader simply couldn't resist the urge for a repeat engagement. Ragnar hurled another big stack at Ravenna, only to come up short of taking the city. There was much blood spilled on both sides, but the Roman praetorians continued to hold strong.
The real action was up further to the north. I'd been watching Kublai put together a strong stack for some time now, approaching 25 units in total. When he judged that the moment was right, the Mongol leader sprang into action:
Hammurabi's border city went down immediately. This was the place where Judaism had been founded earlier, and Kublai must have coveted the location badly. The khan had been Jewish for some time now, and Dur-Kurigalzu made him the titular head of the religion. Hammurabi was last in power on the charts, and losing this border city knocked him down to just four cities in total. Once Kublai finished researching Construction tech and added some catapults to his armies, the Babylonians would be in mortal peril.
Kublai pushed on next to Akkad, the Hindu holy city with 60% defenses. He came very close to taking the city but fell just short. There were five defending units remaining after the big push, all of them at 1 health or lower. If Kublai had waited for catapults, he would have taken the city for certain and that would have effectively crippled Hammurabi. Instead, the Babylonians would hold on for the time being, weakened but not destroyed. In the other conflict, Augustus appeared to be getting the better of Ragnar in a slow war of attrition. There were 7 Roman cities to 5 Viking ones, and that production edge was taking its toll over long turns of war. Ragnar needed to tech to better units to counter the Roman praetorians. Berserkers might do the trick.
OK, I did not expect this to happen! After repeated failed Viking attacks on Roman territory, Augustus finally managed to counterattack. His units marched across the border, laid siege to Nidaros, and captured the Viking capital. It was a massive blow to Ragnar, that was a really sweet capital city. How could he have messed this up so badly?! Anyway, this second war between Ragnar and Augustus was backfiring horribly on the Viking king. His cities were now widely spaced apart and exposed to further attack. Augustus had a bunch of City Raider III praetorians running around, and they were simply unstoppable when assaulting cities.
In time, Ragnar made his way to Civil Service and Machinery, adding berserkers to his armed forces. Unfortunately for him, Augustus also had Machinery tech, and began sending out crossbows to counter the zerkers. Up in the north, Kublai Khan continued to launch attacks on Hammurabi's capital city of Babylon. He was actually building too many catapults there, not leaving himself enough melee units to kill the weakened defenders. Despite heavy fighting, the Babylonians continued to hold for the moment. Both the Mongols and Babylonians were fielding war elephants now, although the Mongol ones were more highly promoted thanks to their Ger unique stables.
The two American leaders stayed out of all this fighting to the west. Lincoln had both stone and marble in his territory, leading him to go wonder-crazy. He built the Parthenon, Mausoleum, Statue of Zeus, Sistine Chapel, Great Library, Shwedagon Paya, and Chichen Itza. Lincoln had a decent shot at a stealth cultural victory down the road if he continued to be left alone. Washington did less wonder building, concentrating instead on developing his cities and settling the wall of sheer ice down in the antarctic. Washington didn't much like the other AI leaders, and I wondered if he would ever try to enter one of these ongoing wars. His impact would be decisive if he chose to enter the fray.
Ragnar managed to secure peace with Augustus shortly before another Viking city would have fallen. The price: Ragnar gifted away the Viking city of Birka to the Romans. Ragnar was lucky to get this temporary reprieve, even at the cost of a city. However, with Augustus well ahead in power and with thoroughly trashed diplomatic relations from so much warring, it felt likely they would go back to war again soon. Ragnar had better find a way to get his house in order. We've seen other AIs try the whole "sell a city for temporary peace", and it's nearly always been a mistake in the long run.
Babylon FINALLY was taken by the Mongols on Turn 142. You guys have no idea how much blood was spilled over this one spot on the map. Babylon had been under siege for roughly 30 straight turns to this point. I'd guess that Kublai had lost somewhere around 75 units in vain attempts to capture the city. It was finally down now, and the way was open to the remaining Babylonian cities. Like Ragnar, Hammurabi was reduced to three cities. They were both in dire straghts, hoping for some kind of miracle. Nothing of the sort popped up at Akkad though, which fell ten turns later. (The AI generally doesn't move that fast, plus Kublai had to replenish his forces after the last giant battle.) This gave Kublai the Hindu shrine, currently sitting at 17 gold/turn. Very nice.
As Mongol elephants now closed on the final remaining Babylonian cities, Augustus returned to war with Ragnar for a third time. This was the first time that the Romans started the conflict, and it was hard to believe how much things had changed from their first scrape. Then this happened:
LINCOLN declared war on Ragnar, oh man. Didn't see that one coming! This wasn't what Ragnar needed to be dealing with right now. It looked like a race to see who would be the first one eliminated, Hammurabi or Ragnar. Who could last the longest and avoid that badge of shame?
Hammurabi was the loser, the first one to go down in this match. He had the central starting position on the map, which is sort of like the position of Austria in Avalon Hill's Diplomacy. In other words, you're most likely either to be the game winner or the first one eliminated. Hammurabi's aggressive settling on the Mongol border earned him the ire of Kublai, and he simply didn't claim enough land for himself to be competitive in a long, drawn-out war of attrition. Better luck next time, Hammurabi.
Ragnar lasted exactly three more turns:
His final city falling to Lincoln, of all people. Lincoln! Ragnar's early exit was the most surpising result of the entire competition thus far. I thought that this game was perfectly set up for him to dominate, with a bunch of wonder-loving peaceful civs to beat up and then snowball to a victory. When I saw his godly starting position, I was even more convinced. Double gold resources and a wonder-obsessed Augustus next door? Could you order any better scenario for Ragnar to get an easy leader kill? It all went horribly wrong in Ragnar's first invasion of Augustus, however, when he lost a boatload of units to no real purpose. The second war went even worse, ending in Ragnar losing his capital. He never recovered from that point, and made a swift exit in the third war. Even Lincoln was kicking his butt around at the end. Lincoln, the second most pacifistic leader in the whole game! Wow. Just shows that you never know.
Here was the overview map with four civs remaining. The world was very evenly split into four corners, everyone with roughly a quarter of the world's land area. In the middle of those four quadrants, the civilizations met in a crazy patchwork quilt of different national colors. This was particularly bad in former Babylonia, where Lincoln's culture reached out to engulf Kublai's conquests. Check this out:
Kublai and Lincoln did not like each other at all; Lincoln was "Annoyed" towards the khan, and Kublai was "Furious" towards the American president. They would not sign Open Borders with one another under any circumstances. This meant that the Mongol stack inside Nippur was completely trapped, unable to move in any direction! I doubted that this uneasy stalemate could last for long, there was a lot of border tension, religious hatred, and peace weight difference built up between these two leaders. If they did come to war, Kublai would have the production edge, but he had fallen behind in technology. Everyone else was about half a dozen techs ahead. In particular, Kublai didn't have knights while everyone else did. Strange to see the Mongol ruler being the one behind in horse-based military technology...
The worldwide peace lasted for all of four turns before Augustus declared war on Kublai Khan. Remember all that talk about peace weight? Now that Ragnar was off the board, there was a lot of animosity directed towards Kublai from the remaining "Good" leaders. This was quite bad for Kublai, as it was almost certain that Augustus would bring Lincoln into the war as well. Kublai's city of Navajo, the place where Hammurabi had made his final stand, fell almost immediately to Augustus. That huge pocket of Mongol units in Nippur had absolutely nowhere to go. They were systemaically whittled down and eventually destroyed. At the same time, Augustus built the Taj Mahal for a free Golden Age, and Lincoln discovered Liberalism first, taking Astronomy as his free prize. Washington landed the free Great Merchant at Economics. The goody-two-shoes leaders were striking back!
Yeah, that was just a matter of time. I'm not sure if Augustus bought Lincoln into the war, or if he simply hopped in of his own accord. Either situation was disastrous for Kublai. He could fight one of them to a standstill, not both. The Mongols had knights on their side now, but Augustus had picked up Gunpowder and Military Tradition techs. He was fielding large numbers of cuirassiers, and that spelled certain doom. If Augustus and Lincoln held firm and prosecuted the war in earnest, they were going to pick up a lot of cities.
The Nippur pocket finally fell on Turn 184. That must have been a grim ending for those Mongol units, another Stalingrad in there. Lincoln was the one who picked up the city, not that it mattered. Augustus would have liberated the city to him anyway, given that culture situation. The former Viking city of Uppsala was next, run over by Roman cavalry (uh oh), and then the city of Babylon was seized by the Americans. It was all falling apart for Kublai:
Augustus' power was spiking in particular, as the man used his possession of Rifling tech to upgrade older units to rifles and cavs. Kublai didn't even have Gunpowder tech yet, which meant that he was in very deep trouble indeed. Too bad his AI programming had Kublai off researching Divine Right instead! Oh dear. Sometimes the stuff that you see the AI doing... It's hard to express any way other than this smiley.
I spent the following turns watching Augustus and Lincoln slowly stomp their way across the fields of Mongolia. Augustus rolled his way up the western coast, Lincoln took the eastern side of things. It was almost as if they had planned this out between them. Progress was slow but steady, in the way that the AI always conquers in this game. Cities fell about one every five or six turns. Here was the process about halfway complete:
Kublai wasn't able to put up much of a fight. He watched, helpless, as his civilization slowly disintegrated around him. Lincoln seemed to be getting most of the spoils in terms of city captures, even though Augustus had the better military tech. There were actually a few City Raider III rifles in the Roman army, obviously upgraded from praetorians or maces. Scary stuff. In the end, there's not that much I can say to make this part sound exciting. It was a clinical, methodical process of elimination, one where the Mongol leader was left with no chance. There's not much you can do with longbows and maces against 50+ cavalry running around on the attack. Kublai was finally eliminated on Turn 230:
Kublai had expended a tremendous amount of effort to conquer the Babylonians, and then he never really got to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Most of the Babylonian cities were heavily crushed by Lincoln's culture, virtually worthless to Kublai, and that was before he was attacked. Once Augustus finished his destruction of Ragnar, there were no allies around for Kublai. He was forced to face the full weight of two other leaders, both of whom had more cities and were technologically more advanced. The collapse was inevitable at that point. Kublai needed Washington to open another front against Lincoln or Augustus, and that simply wasn't happening. The khan became the third leader to kick the bucket, his land split almost exactly in half between Augustus and Lincoln.
We were left with three leaders - again with the three leaders! I wondered if we'd finish the game with three leaders though. Augustus and Lincoln were now extremely good friends, and they'd never fight one another. Washington was a different story. His religion and isolationist ways set him apart from the rest of the group. Washington was only "Cautious" with the other two leaders, and Augustus was also "Cautious" with him. With Washington being well behind in power, there was a non-trivial chance that Augustus would declare war and seek to claim more land for himself. As for Lincoln, he was now the score leader and game leader in nearly every category. Lincoln had the Kremlin and was in State Property civic; with his huge empire, he was just dominating. I never though that I'd see that result from this game...
At this point, I began hitting Next Turn a whole bunch of times. The only possible conflict would be an Augustus attack on Washington, everything else was essentially ruled out by diplomacy. I waited and watched to see if someone would go for a cultural victory, or build the United Nations, or whatever. Then a little before Turn 250, Augustus revolted to Free Religion, leading to this screen:
The blue numbers on the Glance diplo screen indicate that all of these leaders feel "Pleased" towards one another. Note how even a score as low as +2 diplo points was enough to make Augustus feel Pleased towards Washington. That's due to the high peace weight that all of these leaders share, they are all predisposed to like one another. Anyway, none of these three leaders will plot war at Pleased relations, and all of them had that level of friendliness or higher. That meant no more wars for the rest of the game, unless someone would issue demands or get caught spying or something. Looks like these are the borders we're going to have until the game's conclusion.
Lincoln proceeded to clean up all of the lategame wonders. I even got to see him build his unique building Malls, first time I've ever seen them in action, woot! They... made no difference whatsoever. None of the AI leaders chose to pursue a Cultural win, something that surprised me. I thought Washington might take a shot, that was his only chance to take a victory here. The United Nations didn't even get built until extremely late, holding its first vote on Turn 290:
Also inconclusive. Even if Augustus were to call for a diplo victory vote, Lincoln had enough population to block a successful election. It looked like we were headed to a very slow spaceship ending here. Augustus did in fact call for a diplo vote, only to see the exact same result take place. Augustus and Washington together only had 391 votes, and they needed 435 votes to take the victory. Just a little bit short. Instead, Lincoln finished the entire tech tree and launched his spaceship together on the same turn, Turn 306. He actually left the useless Stealth tech for last, probably because it has a military flavor and Lincoln AI doesn't focus on that. I clicked Next Turn ten times, and that was that.
More useless time wasting from the Beyond the Sword spaceship mechanic. In any case, it was now done. The final 80 turns after the destruction of Kublai took maybe 15 minutes to play out in real world time. Nothing going on, and little to watch once I saw that none of these leaders would declare war on each other.
This game didn't go the way that I expected at all. I write the previews for each leader ahead of time before playing, and I don't try to mislead the reader. I honestly believed that this was the perfect setup for Ragnar to defeat one of the other leaders early on, and then snowball his way into an unstoppable Domination victory. I'd have wagered money on it. When I went back and read through the report again, I couldn't help but feel that it was Augustus' praetorian units that had made the difference. In the very first Viking vs. Roman war, Ragnar had some initial success right at the start. Everything swung when Augustus was able to connect his iron resource down in the southern ice and begin training praetorians. To explain why, think about how the AI puts together its army compositions. They are infamous for building an even mix of many different types of units, which is designed to cover for their lack of understanding what's right in any one situation. This serves the AI decently well in most scenarios.
But it's a TERRIBLE strategy to employ for an early game war against praetorians. There's exactly one unit that counters praetorians in the early game: axes promoted with Combat I and Shock. They get a slight edge if used correctly, and that's assuming that the AI can be intelligent enough to pick the right promotions on its axes (which it can't). Everything else has losing odds against praetorians. Everything: swords, spears, chariots, horse archers, etc. Ragnar had teched to horse archers, and he had a good number of them running around alongside swords, both of which were carved up badly by the Roman praetorians. The praetorians would fight a battle, win, promote, and then heal up to fight again, while the Viking units would die each time. That one unit swung the results of the first war enormously, bringing Augustus back into the game and allowing him to restore the status quo antebellum. From there, things only got worse for Ragnar with each succeeding conflict, until he was out of the game completely. I really think that if you swapped one of the American leaders in position with Augustus, then Ragnar overruns them easily in that first war. Then you've got Ragnar and Kublai together with more than half of the map under their control, each having devoured an enemy civilization, and spelling certain doom for the remaining peaceniks leaders down the road.
Instead, Ragnar was the one to fall, and his death made it almost inevitable that Kublai Khan would be the next to go. Those two leaders needed one another, whether they would have admitted it or not. Looking back at Kublai's earlier war, I think that Hammurabi's tough defense made the difference there. Kublai was forced to spend so much effort in attaining his conquest that he fell behind in technology, and then his gains were rapidly taken away from him by Augustus and Lincoln. Hammurabi was vindicated in death, small comfort that must have been! The American leaders were the real surprises in this game, especially Lincoln. I never thought we'd see him do much of anything, much less top the board with his super pacifistic AI personality. As for Washington, he did very little in this game. This was the first time we've had an AI leader go the entire game without fighting a war of any kind, either offensively or defensively. Eh, we'll throw him into the wildcard game and see if he does something more interesting there.
Endgame Demographics were fairly close. Lincoln didn't have that much of a lead, and both Augustus and Washington were in the process of building their own spaceships when Lincoln launched his. It's too bad that one of them didn't try for culture, they might have had a shot at winning that way. No one was going to declare war anyway, it wouldn't even have been a risk. Ah well.
2) Augustus Caesar
4) Kublai Khan
Lincoln goes through as the winner, Augustus as well as the runner up. Kudos to you if you saw that coming! Looks like this was one game where good did triumph over evil. Game Six will be up next, thanks for reading.