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CivFanatics Game of the Month 06

Peter of Russia
Standard map, Shuffle, 7 AI Opponents
Emperor difficulty
Second Patch (

Well here's a place I never thought that I'd be again. Longtime readers of the website may know that the first competitive games of Civilization that I played online were not with the Realms Beyond community, but with the CivFanatics Game of the Month (GOTM) tournament for Civ3. I was a participant in GOTM 05, GOTM 06, GOTM 07, and GOTM 08 during the early months of 2002, and I produced some pretty strong results, posting a fourth place and seventh place finish in fields that routinely included more than a hundred submissions. GOTM 05 was my first-ever Monarch difficulty victory, while GOTM 07 was my first-ever Deity difficulty win. (There are old writeups of both games here on my website.) However, I became dissatisfied with the competition over time, as the lax GOTM administration for Civ3 had no problem with blatant exploitation of the AI civs and embraced the tedious "score milking" process that became necessary to produce a good result. I tried that once and had no desire ever to do it again. When Sirian started up the Epics at Realms Beyond, I was happy to leave and had no reason to go back. And it's been almost 15 years since then.

In a strange twist of fate, I now find myself in the reverse situation. Much of the Realms Beyond community seems to be uninterested in Civ6, and getting the new Epics off and running in the face of widespread indifference has often felt like a Sisyphean task. I hope that will change in time; I think too many members of our community were turned off by the dreadfully poor AI in the release version of Civ6, or are comparing the AI in Civ6 to an idealized version of the AI in past games that never really existed. I have pages and pages of old reports documenting how atrociously bad the AI was in Civ3 and Civ4, if anyone's curious. But the main point is that by and large there hasn't been as much interest in Civ6 as I expected at Realms Beyond, and I've been in the strange position of having to drum up interest in the game on a Civilization enthusiast website! Not quite what I anticipated.

I enjoy playing Civ6 enough that if I can't find meaningful and interesting discussions at Realms Beyond, I'm happy to look elsewhere. When I was browsing through the Civ6 forums at CivFanatics, I happened to see the subforum for the Game of the Month competition and decided to drop in and take a look. GOTM 06 was just starting up, and the premise of a Cultural game on Emperor difficulty seemed like it would be fun to try. The larger playerbase of the GOTM environment would give me additional feedback to see what worked and didn't work for this particular setup, as well as provide a measuring stick for how my own efforts fared. (One suggestion for the GOTM crew: get rid of that ridiculous "6OTM" moniker. It makes the whole competition look foolish.) I've become a bit of a connoisseur for the Cultural victory condition in Civ6; now that I understand how the mechanics work, it's turning into my favorite victory condition. Finally, Civ6 games don't seem to take that long for me to play, and I can usually complete them in a week or two. The series has done an excellent job of reducing the micromanagement insanity of older games, when we would be managing 35 cities and 100+ workers every single turn in Civ3. (Who else here remembers high-level Civ3 play, where we would have to check diplomacy with EVERY other leader EVERY turn, not to mention micromanage a lack of production and research overflow. No wonder those games would often take 30 or more hours apiece.) I had the time to play another game, so why not try GOTM 06 instead of a random solo venture?

Note for the curious: I played this game after Realms Beyond Epic One, even though this report was posted first. I will avoid any Epic One spoilers in this report.

I would be playing as Peter of Russia again in this game, with the goal of achieving a Cultural victory. Scoring for GOTM 06 was a simple fastest finish with no other rules or restrictions. The starting position looked insanely fertile and I was happy to settle on the starting tile. The Russian unique ability to grab extra tiles upon city founding was on full display here, and I was particularly pleased to have that amazing forested hill deer tile with the 2/3 yield available from the start. That was essentially an improved tile right from the outset. I went with my usual first build of a slinger and researched Mining -> Animal Husbandry, with the plan of having the first builder improve the stone, sheep, and cattle resources.

Exploring the immediate surroundings shortly revealed that there were resources scattered everywhere around the map. This was clearly the "Abundant" setting from the setup screen, the exact opposite of the "Sparse" setting that I used for my previous A Cold Doctrine Russia game. (Whoever did the setup also used the "Old" world age setting rather than my typical "New" choice; the lack of hill tiles was painfully evident while playing.) I found Egypt to the north as early as Turn 8, although for whatever reason it took a few extra turns to make official contact with Cleopatra. I still don't understand how that mechanic works, when I have one of my units standing next to one of the units of another civ, yet there's no contact with the other leader. The early turns were pretty quiet, as I finished the slinger in the capital, trained a builder who improved three tiles for the Craftsmanship boost, then produced a settler. I suspect many of the other players will switch into Agoge policy (+50% unit production) and head for the immediate rush, but there was plenty of good land nearby, and the first settler is fairly cheap. With this ridiculously rich starting area, I had my settler out quickly and the second city already founded by Turn 27:

The terrain at Yaroslavl was almost as good as the capital: double cows, double stone, sheep, and another luxury resource in the form of jade. I was running the God King policy to get my pantheon as soon as possible, while training another builder for the second city. Research was going into the unboosted Astrology tech in the hopes of founding a religion. I had a mind to make a play for Stonehenge with this highly fertile capital and its stone resources. If that fell through, then Astrology tech would still unlock Russia's unique Lavra district. The most recent patch has weakened it significantly, as unique districts now count against the population limit for cities, but the Lavra remains half cost compared to normal districts and produces those Great Writer/Artist/Musician points in addition to the normal faith and Great Prophet points. Getting a couple of cheap Lavras wouldn't be bad from a Cultural victory standpoint at all.

After that second builder finished in the capital, I began building Stonehenge. That attempt only lasted a half dozen turns before an AI civ in the fog built the wonder themselves on Turn 34. Ouch, what a waste of precious early game production! I could have had another builder, two units (with the Agoge bonus), or most of a Lavra district in that same span of time. At least I hadn't wasted any more time though. I guess I should have known that the AI would build the thing quickly here on Emperor difficulty, and I should have avoided such a risky play. One thing that did work out was landing my pantheon of choice: God King delivered God of the Open Sky for +1 culture on pastures on Turn 39. There were five such tiles at my first two cities alone, and many many more in the surrounding area. The pantheon immediately doubled my cultural output, and sped me along to the first government. I don't think any of the other potential choices were as strong, not even Divine Spark. The faster that the player can get through the civics tree to the more powerful midgame and lategame policies, the faster the cultural win condition will arrive.

Cleopatra was already beelining settlers into my territory by this point, and she would found the city of Akhetaten between my own two cities, on the southern coast next to that cluster of stone resources. That was a needlessly provocative site, and it was clear that this situation wasn't going to be resolved through diplomacy. For a fastest finish victory condition, I knew that I was going to need a solid core of cities, and that meant gearing up for war. With Egypt right up in my face, there was no other choice. I began training slingers (to upgrade into archers) and warriors.

By Turn 48, the writing was on the wall:

Cleopatra had denounced me for having a "weak military", and it was just a matter of time before she attacked me. She had also inexplicably walked an unescorted settler right past Yaroslavl - why does the AI do this again?! It can't be that hard to have a unit escort the settlers, even the Civ3 AI could pull that off without issue. Come on Firaxis. Anyway, I declared war and took the settler for myself, founding Novgorod on the very same tile. My archers had no trouble shooting down the Egyptian warriors, followed by taking Akhetaten a few turns later:

The incentives for early warfare are still too strong in Civ6. Taking these cities away from Cleopatra was easier than building them myself; indeed, St. Petersburg and Yaroslavl had used these turns to build a Lavra apiece, which were slowly working towards a religion. With this many amenities on hand unhappiness was no problem, and I needed the units anyway to deal with the barbarians. They were quite rough on the capital, spawning in droves down in the southern ice and pillaging the cows at St. Petersburg on multiple occasions. From here it was on to Egypt's capital of Ra-Kedet, which I was able to put under a full siege with my two warriors and then bombard down with quadruple archers. Cleo either lacked the technology for Ancient Walls or failed to build them. The city fell on Turn 65:

Egypt was left with a single city located just to the north. I wanted to push on and capture that city to eliminate Egypt from the game entirely, only to run into another problem: barbarian horsemen. The first one is visible in that screenshot above, and the units would terrorize me for ages to come. The terrain north of Ra-Kedet was all jungle, massive stretches of the stuff, and that was a poor environment for my archers. They could only shoot if they were right next to the horses, and there was no opportunity to retreat to safety. I killed one barbarian horseman after another, always to be replaced by more of them. I was losing some of my own units too, as there was no opportunity to retreat from a lot of these fights. I had a situation where an archer was safely healing in my territory, only to have a pair of barbarian horses suddenly appear out of the fog and kill the unit in a single round of combat. Their ability to move through two jungle tiles in a single turn gave them the tactical edge.

Finally after killing about eight horsemen and horse archers, I had to give up. I wasn't going to get Egypt's final city - there were simply too many barbarians running around up there. Yes, the barbarians were actually tougher opponents than one of the AI civs. This game is really weird in that regard, where the AIs can be complete patsies in battle at the same time that the barbarians are murderous monsters. The barb horseman spawns on the higher difficulties can also be absurd sometimes. Anyway, I needed to sign peace so that my captured Egyptian cities could get out of occupied status and start growing. While I did get cessations for Akhetaten and Ra-Kedet along with a generous amount of gold, it had taken me until Turn 80 to admit defeat and sign the treaty. That was 15 delayed turns; I could have had the same deal on Turn 65. What a waste. This was the most inefficient part of the game I played. (I'm sure the players who specialize in early rushes will pull this off faster and more successfully.)

I had founded my own religion on Turn 77 thanks to the Great Prophet points supplied by those Lavras. I chose Eastern Orthodoxy to be consistent with my Russian civ. For the beliefs, the main one that I wanted was Work Ethic for the production bonus. It seems to me that anything providing additional production is inherently good in Civ6, as production always seems to be the limiting factor on everything. Work Ethic gets stronger as the game goes on, reaching as much as 15-20% additional production on everything by the lategame, and even in the early game with smaller populations Civ6 still tracks production to a single decimal place, ensuring that the bonus is not wasted. Scripture is a cheap way to get passive religious spread without needing to invest faith into missionaries. I'll be interested to see what other beliefs are taken here, if other players choose to pursue a self-founded religion at all. With the cheapness of the Lavra district and its free Great Person points, picking up some kind of religion seems like an easy choice to me.

While the war was dragging out in the north, my core cities had been pushing out settlers as fast I could get them with the Colonization policy:

All of the non-desert land on this starting subcontinent was excellent, and the faster that I could get it settled, the better. I wanted to get my districts down on the map and locked in place before the costs scaled up too much. Most cities started with an Industrial district followed by a Commercial district, my standard pattern in non-variant games. Why the Industrial district first? Even after the factory/power plant change in the latest patch, just about every city still wants an Industrial district. The district itself can usually be placed to get +1 to +3 production from adjacency bonuses, which can be doubled with one of the Economic policies. Then the workshop produces +2 production, and if there are any Industrial city states on the map, they will kick in even more production. I played a game with three Industrial city states where I had enough envoys to get +10 production from every Industrial district, and that made them a complete no brainer. Even on this map with no city states immediately available, the Industrial districts were great because they make constructing all the subsequent districts faster. Commercial districts do the same thing in the form of their free trade route, bringing in food and production via internal trade routes. I would like to see them nerfed by moving the trade route back from the district itself to the market building, which would weaken them a bit. For the moment though, they are also important to build just about everywhere.

I had seven cities at this point and would found an eighth before hitting Turn 100. That's a pretty solid result, although I expect the top finishers will do better. I was using most of my income to cash-rush builders every few turns; since I already had Feudalism researched and the Serfdom policy in place (+2 builder actions), that was arguably the most efficient way to speed up my development curve. I could rush builders - I couldn't rush districts aside from chopping forests. In terms of research, note my unusual choice to head for the unboosted Cartography, which had a lengthy 20 turn research time. The reality was that my empire remained isolated. A hundred turns into the game, I still lacked contact with anyone other than Egypt. There were six more AI civs out there that I needed to meet, and I couldn't even start sending them tourism until making contact. Not that I had much tourism yet, of course. I had tried to get a unit past the single remaining Egyptian city, and it was jumped upon and killed by barbarian horse archers. It seemed as though exploration was going to need to happen via the oceans, and I needed Cartography for that. Furthermore, I had no need for anything else on the tech tree at present. What good were aqueducts when my cities had plenty of housing, or crossbows when there was no one but barbarians to fight? Why would I need banks or universities when my cities were still building the Commercial and Campus districts themselves? This was a perfect time for me to divert for exploration technology while my cities were still in expansion and district-building mode.

Sixteen turns later, I had added two more cities and had another settler about to head north into the big bananas cluster near Mohenjo-Daro. That Cultural city state would be a big help, not only kicking in culture for my Theatre districts but also providing housing for my many cities planted away from fresh water. There were virtually no mountains on this map at all, which meant that cities not already on fresh water were mostly out of luck when it came to aqueduct availability. Suzerainship of Mohenjo-Daro was a massive assist in growing many of these locations. With Cartography tech about to finish between turns, I was training a series of cheap scouts to serve as recon units. Why build a caravel when you could have four or five scouts instead at the same price? The scouts don't even cost anything in maintenance! As usual, I was desperately trying to train enough builders to keep up with the need for improved tiles. At least there was little need to worry about unhappiness with so many domestic luxuries to provide amenities.

I began meeting the other civs as soon as my scouts hit the water. Tomyris of Scythia was the first that I encountered; she turned out to be located to the north beyond Egypt. I likely would have met her earlier if it hadn't been for all those barbarian horsemen. Gilgamesh turned out to be fairly close as well, off on his own island to the west. In contrast to my luscious starting location, he had a desert waste for his homeland:

Wow. That is some sad stuff. Maybe someday we'll have to take up the challenge of playing out of a start like that, but fortunately not today.

The remainder of the AI civs soon followed. Philip of Spain was located on a small continent in the far north, Frederick Barbarossa on a continent to the southeast. This was apparently an archipelago version of the Shuffle map script, with most of the other civs located on their own islands. Catherine of France was further to the west beyond Gilgamesh, and the furthest away from me proved to be Gorgo of Greece. That last competitor was someone that I had not been expecting. I knew that one of the AIs in the fog was tearing it up from a cultural perspective, as I had been watching them grab Great People left and right on the patronage screen. I had guessed that this would be Mvemba of the Kongo, since he gets doubled Great Writer/Artist/Musician points. Unfortunately it was worse than that: Gorgo had been claiming all those Great People and she had *NOT* been getting doubled points from a unique civ ability. Uh oh. In fact, this was so not good that I have to post the picture of the cultural victory screen:

One hundred domestic tourists already, on Turn 123? One hundred and forty-four culture per turn?! My goodness, that was a lot of culture! And this is only Emperor difficult, not Immortal or Deity? Someone had apparently forgotten to tell Gorgo that the AI is terrible at Civ6 and doesn't know how to pursue any of the victory conditions. (I keep trying to tell everyone at Realms Beyond: the passive, inert AI from the Adventure One event is not representative of how this game plays.) I had only just recruited my first non-Prophet Great People of the game, a Writer and an Artist, both of them at exactly the same time (Turn 119). By contrast, Gorgo already had close to a dozen Great Works on the trading screen. It was a bit intimidating, I'll be honest.

As soon as I saw this, I realized two things. One was that some of the entrants into GOTM 06 will never be able to overcome that kind of cultural output from Gorgo, and will either end up losing or be forced to win via some alternate path aside from culture. A situation like this requires a deeper understanding of how the cultural mechanics work, and without knowing that information, the victory will likely be out of reach for many. (For example, I did not expect to get much tourism at all from wonders or Great Works in this game; my path to victory would go through archaeologists/artifacts, seaside resorts, and heavy use of the tourism bonus modifiers via Open Borders and trade routes). Second, the path to a fast victory in this game will mandate attacking Greece at some point to slow down Gorgo's cultural output. 144 culture/turn at such an early date was just too high to overcome through "fair" means. Greece was located very far away from Russia on this map, however, and that was going to pose a difficult challenge indeed. For the moment, I needed to keep exploring and getting more map information while building up my own civ. Striking out against Gorgo would have to wait until a later date.

This was the Russian homeland on Turn 125. I had not been expanding in the past few turns, although with some key projects finishing up I planned to push out a few more settlers in the upcoming turns. A cultural victory requires a lot of cities, as each one can only build a single Theatre district to house Great Works and artifacts. My religion had kindly converted every city other than Ra-Kedet via passive spread, although the first Scythian missionaries were already on their way at this point. I intended to launch an Inquisition with my first apostle and use that to protect my religion from foreign interlopers (along with converting Smolensk back to the true faith). Cities were generally just doing their thing, getting districts and the initial buildings in place as best they could. Gold was still being used to cash-rush builders as fast as I could accumulate it, and I was still behind the pace where I wanted to be. For example, Smolensk needed a builder in the worst way in the above picture.

Research into techs and civics were progressing nicely, especially on the civics side. That's the more important target for a cultural game, and the sooner I could reach archaeology and start digging up artifacts, the better. Meritocracy's +1 culture per district was helping a lot here, along with my pantheon for all those pastures. At the moment, I was about to finish Exploration and adopt the Merchant Republic government, where additional Economic policy slots, trade routes, and cash-rushing purchase discounts would all be welcome. For the curious, I picked Meritocracy, Serfdom, Caravansaries, and Medina Quarter for my economic/wildcard policies at the time of my government swap. On the tech tree, I was heading for Industrialization and the all-important factories and +1 production on mines. I would have three workshops finished in time to claim the Industrialization boost. After that, Computers would be the target to double tourism as quickly as possible, followed by Steel tech in the hopes of building the Eiffel Tower. That was admittedly a long way off at this point, but it's always good to have a general plan for the future.

While I continued to build up my cities at home, my scouts were pushing back the fog on the rest of the map. Here's an unexplored goody hut I found near German territory, along with a whole bunch of barbarian units. The five scouts that I had out on the seas slowly revealed the entire map over the course of several dozen turns. Quite aside from meeting the other civs, this effort was highly useful for finding the remaining city states (including both of the game's Industrial city states hidden up in the northern islands) and revealing locations for future artifacts. I needed to know where to send my archaeologists once they became available; the need to build the archaeologists and then move them to dig up the actual artifacts is one of the slowest aspects of the whole process. In turn, the artifacts produce significantly more tourism than the works of art from Great Artists (something that I think should be the other way around). Exploration now would help my efficiency with the archaeologists later on.

I also used an apostle to enhance my religion, and was delighted to be able to take Tithe (+1 gold for every 4 followers of the religion) at a relatively late date. That's one of the more useful beliefs, and the AI had ignored it in this game. I would launch an Inquisition with the next apostle, and train three inquisitors for defense against enemy religious units. That used up most of my remaining faith, and it wasn't until very late in the game that I would use the final enhancement for the Gurdwara building. I never built a single missionary unit all game; the Scripture belief did a fine job of spreading my religion to all of my cities, and that was sufficient.

I had been researching towards Natural History on the civics tree, cash-rushing an archaeological museum in a low-production city to claim the boost, and finished it on Turn 146. My best production cities began building archaeologists, after completing factories in a few cases. For low-production cities like Akhetaten, I planned to use gold to complete the units more quickly. It's important to choose out which method of production a city will end up using ahead of time. Like Civ5, there's no credit for a partial prebuild when spending gold in Civ6. Either the player builds a unit from scratch or cash-rushes it from scratch with no in-between. I would put my gold income towards purchasing archaeologists for some time to come.

As part of this effort, it's crucial to increase the cash flow of your civilization as much as possible. Spending gold is useful for every victory condition in Civ6, which is part of why the Commercial districts are so helpful in all circumstances. One useful source of money was my excess resources, which I sold repeatedly for high value. I have a screenshot of Philip paying 14 gold/turn for a cotton resource at one point; he must have needed happiness very badly. I also sold captured spies back to the AI periodically, with Gilgamesh paying 20 gold/turn for his spy. And in addition to the Commercial districts and their buildings, my trade routes themselves were also highly lucrative. I was using the Triangle Trade policy for +4 gold/trade route, and then managed to recruit the Great Merchant who adds another +0.5 gold per route for each specialty district at the destination. Most of my trade routes were going to St. Petersburg which had four districts to its name, and that meant a total of +6 gold per trade route. Not bad at all. Even those pricey archaeologists could be bought quickly when making over 200 gold/turn.

Scythia and Germany declared a joint war against me on Turn 151, but that was a non-issue. I upgraded a few archers to crossbows and held off Scythia at Smolensk, the only city that they could reach. Peace was reestablished as soon as possible, so that I could get Open Borders again for the tourism bonus.

I reached Cultural Heritage civic on Turn 174. That's one of the big ones for a cultural victory, since it opens up Cultural Heritage policy: +100% tourism from Great Works of Art and artifacts. I had recruited few of the early Great Artists in this game, and it would be the artifacts that would supply the bulk of my tourism. In the picture of the Great Works screen above, I had managed to complete three themed museums by Turn 175. Note how even an unthemed archaeological museum is worth significantly more tourism (18) than an art museum (8). It's just too hard to theme the art museums, since they requires three of the same type of work (religious, sculpture, portrait, landscape) AND have all of them come from different artists. That usually requires five or six Great Artists to theme a single museum, and that's pretty ridiculous. Far more common are the unthemed art museums being heavily overshadowed by the archaeological ones. I hope that this gets more attention from Firaxis in a patch or expansion, as the Great Works or Art (and Music!) are honestly kind of terrible right now. Only the Great Works of Writing are really useful right now for a cultural victory, since they do not require theming and are easy to store in amphitheatres.

One note here about the theming of artifacts. I finally figured out how they work in this game after much confusion in prior ventures. In order to theme the archaeological museums, the three artifacts must all come from different civilizations AND all come from the same era. That second component was the part I had been missing in the past. It's all horribly documented as usual for Civ6, with the interface and Civilopedia failing to explain the requirements. In practice, most of the artifacts end up coming from the Ancient era and so theming the museum simply means picking three from different civs. However, that's not always the case (as in the stuff found in Akhetaten's museum above), and I had to figure this out through trial and error. What a silly system. I've said before that the whole "storage" system for Great Works and artifacts is needlessly micromanagement-intensive and should be scrapped entirely. There's nothing fun here - it's all busywork. (Besides, do you think the AI understands this at all? As a rule of thumb, it's bad design to create systems that the AI can't understand or use properly.)

For the first time ever in a game of Civ6, I failed to land Ruhr Valley, and that was despite starting it almost as soon as Industrialization finished. Tomyris built the wonder instead. I swear, the AI has gotten so much better at the economic side of this game in the last two patches. Well, with Gustave Eiffel in hand, I wasn't going to take the same risk with Cristo Redentor and rushed about 2/3 of the wonder with this Great Engineer. Eiffel Tower + Cristo Redentor is the power wonder combination for cultural games, with the former wonder increasing the appeal of tiles to open up more territory for seaside resorts, and the latter wonder doubling tourism from each resort. I hadn't built the two of them prior to this game, and I underestimated the amount of tourism that they would provide when combined together. As a result, I delayed the seaside resorts a lot longer than I should have in this game, and that ended up slowing me down in my victory attempt.

My research targets had been Computers on the tech tree and Social Media on the civics tree. Computers tech doubles all sources of tourism, and I ended up reaching it on Turn 190, with my base tourism immediately leaping up to 544/turn. I think that this was a bit on the slow side, and it would have been a good idea to build another Campus district or two to reach the tech a bit faster. I had no Campus districts at all until a relatively late date, and I think that I should have skipped the Industrial district in a couple of places (which could have been covered by nearby factories/power plants) to build two or three more science cities. Even as late as Turn 186 in the picture above, you can see that I only had 120 beakers/turn, and that wasn't much. I also could have done a better job of getting some of the naval-themed boosts at the top of the tech tree; the only one that I picked up was the "build three privateers" quest for Electronics. Ah well. Work to do for the next game.

I wanted Social Media on the civics tree to open up another one of the big policies for a cultural victory. Online Communities provides +50% tourism to other civs provided that you have a trade route with them. This was necessary because I was still nowhere close to winning a cultural victory as yet:

At least I had finally taken over the lead spot on this screen. But Greece and their monstrous cultural output was still very far out of reach. I still needed another 250 foreign tourists to win the game, plus whatever else Gorgo would manage to accumulate in that time span. At a little over 200 culture/turn, Gorgo was adding about 2 domestic tourists every turn. I had Open Borders with all seven of the AI civs (for +25% tourism) and trade routes with everyone other than France, who was too far away to reach at the moment. That was worth another +25% tourism to each civilization with whom I had a route. Since there was some lost tourism for the "different governments" penalty, figure that I was getting about 700 tourism/turn on average with each of the other seven civs, for a grand total of roughly 4900 tourism/turn. Here on a Standard sized map, foreign tourists requires 1200 lifetime tourism apiece, so that averaged out to about 4 foreign tourists added per turn. 4 foreign tourists heading to Russia per turn was greater than 2 domestic tourists per turn for Greece. I was indeed making progress here, albeit not very quickly. At a net gain of 2 tourists per turn, it was going to take another 126 turns at my current pace to achieve victory, and that assumed no further increase on the part of Greece, which was itself unrealistic.

Naturally I would keep digging up more artifacts and picking up more Great Works via recruiting additional Great People. However, that alone wasn't going to be sufficient to get a fast victory date. I knew that the fastest route to success would come from invading Greece and stopping Gorgo from producing more culture. The sooner that I could take her cities and stop her from producing culture, the faster that she would stop accumulating domestic tourists and I would win the game. As a result, I switched my research over to the long-neglected bottom part of the tech tree and began researching the military techs that I had ignored. I had a whole bunch of old units on hand that I had built for barbarian protection or exploration earlier:

Archers and crossbows, three privateers for the Electronics quest, and a whole bunch of scouts that I had used for exploration earlier. (Check out my awesome fully revealed minimap!) I had also built two very cheap catapults for some sieging power. I had a plan to research the relatively cheap techs that would upgrade all of these units into their Industrial counterparts, and then sail over to Greece and put a whooping on poor Gorgo. If I could turn those catapults into bombards, the archers into field guns, the scouts into rangers, and the privateers into submarines, I'd have a pretty formidable force on hand. My core cities wouldn't even have to stop their endless infrastructure building projects. And besides, what else was I going to do during these remaining turns? The only cost would be the gold spent to upgrade the units, which would be discounted in half due to Professional Army policy - and I had no shortage of gold on hand.

As a result, I began researching through the techs I needed to put this plan into operation. Gorgo actually asked me repeatedly if I was willing to declare a Friendship with Greece; I had better relations with Greece than any of the other AIs, amazingly enough. I felt bad about attacking them, only to find out eventually that I didn't have to do so. In another one of those completely baffling moves, I was declared upon by Greece and Spain in another joint war on Turn 207:

This was the same turn that I reached Social Media and the end of the civics tree... just in time for those dual war declarations to remove two of my foreign trade routes! That was a bit of poor luck. I swapped into the Online Communities policy and picked up the +50% tourism bonus with the other civs, for a total trade route bonus of +75% to tourism. I had a trade route to everyone other than France, which remained too far away to reach. Anyway, this was the last major goal on the civics tree for me, and I took the opportunity to drop Meritocracy's culture bonus for Rationalism's science bonus. I also adopted Professional Army and began upgrading my old units to their newer counterparts, starting with catapults into bombards and archers/crossbows into field guns. With the privateers turned into submarines for escorts, I could sail off for Greece and start putting their cities under siege. By the time that the scouts could be upgraded into rangers and arrive to do the actual city capturing, I should have a siege just about done.

I also used some of my accumulated faith to purchase a naturalist and build a National Park for the first time ever. It seemed to have very little effect on tourism, and given the cost of the naturalist (1600 faith) and very stringent tile requirements for those parks, I don't think they're worth the effort. Get one for the Radio tech boost, and that should be more than sufficient.

This was one of the most useful Great People for a cultural victory. Sarah Breedlove's +25% tourism bonus towards other civilizations with a trade route took my total tourism bonus to +100% when stacked with the base value and Online Communities. The difference between having and not having a trade route was enormous, and I happily reestablished a trade route with Philip of Spain as soon as he was willing to sign peace. (I had an unused trader just waiting around for a few turns until the foolish AI leader would talk to me again.) I was only able to claim this Great Merchant because I had passed up the useless one that provides +1 level of diplomatic insight a little bit earlier. Kudos to Greece for removing a Great Person that I had no intention of recruiting from the list.

Here's where I stood on Turn 215:

The cultural victory was essentially at the halfway point. I've highlighted my tourism with Egypt to demonstrate the power of those lategame trade routes: the base tourism value was only 764/turn but I was getting 1604 tourism/turn with Cleopatra, more than double the value at the top of the screen. In retrospect, keeping Egypt alive was probably the correct call, since it allowed me to send them a trade route and accumulate more tourism. The base formula for foreign tourists is (150 * Number of Civs), which here on a Standard map with eight total civilizations was (150 * 8 = 1200), or 1 foreign tourist for every 1200 lifetime tourism accumulated with each foreign civ. I am not sure if that calculation changes if a civilization is killed; I suspect that it does not. Assuming that my hunch is correct, it's better to keep a crippled civilization alive for tourism purposes if pursuing a cultural victory.

Now I just needed to deal with Greece. Gorgo was still producing over 200 culture/turn and stacking up domestic tourists at a fantastic rate. In fact, when I compared my game to the other participants in the GOTM after finishing, my Greece seemed to have far more culture than anyone else that I saw. There were other games where Greece had 100 fewer domestic tourists at the time of the player's victory, despite that victory arriving some some 50 or 60 turns later, even in games where the player never attacked Greece at all. I have no idea what explains that difference; perhaps my Gorgo landed some key wonder, or built Acropolis districts in a better place? Hard to say. All I know is that Greece was an absolute monster in my game.

I reached Rifling tech on Turn 217 and upgraded all my scouts to rangers. Meanwhile, my bombards/field guns/submarines had already landed at the Greek home island and were putting Knossus under siege:

By the time that the rangers arrived, I had completely wiped out the city's defenses. All that the rangers needed to do was walk into the undefended city. And yet when I tried it, for some reason the capture wouldn't take place. What gives?! I knew that scouts could capture cities because I've taken a city with a scout unit, and used a scout unit to deny zone of control healing at an enemy city. Rangers upgrade from scouts, and they continue to use the recon line of promotions. I had never used rangers prior to this game. Don't tell me that rangers can't capture cities?!

Well, as some of you already knew, rangers cannot capture cities in Civ6. They are considered "ranged" units and only "melee" units can do the actual city capturing. It makes no logical sense to me why the upgraded and stronger version of a unit loses some of the functionality of the primitive fur-clad version of the unit, but hey, what do I know. It's not like the interface or Civilopedia in Civ6 provide any information about what units can capture cities and which ones can't, and it's not like the units in the recon line of promotion are internally consistent. Whatever. Chalk this up to another learning experience as I continue to explore more of the gameplay in Civ6.

Of course, that meant that I had no units available on hand to capture Knossus, and that was going to delay my offensive until I could build another unit and sail it all the way across the world. I cash-rushed a cossack and had to wait another half-dozen turns for it to arrive. This was doubly bad; on the one hand, it dragged out my war that much longer, extending the turns in which I was at war with Greece. As long as we were fighting, I could not have a trade route running to Gorgo, and I was losing out on that huge +125% total tourism modifier from a trade route and Open Borders. On the other hand, I had diverted resources into this whole "use rangers to capture the Greek cities" plan that could have been much better spent elsewhere. The need for rangers caused me to research Castles, Siege Tactics, Military Sciences, and Rifling techs - all useless. I should have limited myself to Metal Casting (bombards) and Ballistics (field guns), both of which are necessarily prerequisites for Steel and the Eiffel Tower. This was a very inefficient use of my limited science output, delaying seaside resorts and the tourism that they provide. I should have cash-rushed a pair of knights when I set out initially, and they would have been plenty sufficient to do the city capturing.

While my units were helplessly twiddling their thumbs outside Knossus, I finally managed to reach Radio tech on Turn 228. That was far too late, and I should have headed to Radio immediately after Computers, a lesson I'll remember for the future. The Eiffel Tower at Steel can wait until after Radio tech, as Cristo Redentor will be providing massive tourism output for the seaside resorts that your civilization can already build without the bonus appeal, and the player will want to get that tourism in play as soon as possible.

Regarding the seaside resorts themselves, they also have some odd mechanics that aren't explained very well in-game. Seaside resorts must be built on the coast, they cannot be constructed on hill tiles, and they can only be built on grassland/plains/desert tiles - no tundra or ice tiles. They are significantly harder to build in games that have the "Cold" setting as a result. This map clearly had the "Arid" climate setting, and there were plenty of places for seaside resorts across my territory. The resorts also require the tile to have "Breathtaking" appeal or greater, and there can't be any improvements or resources on the tile before building the resort. I was forced to clear some farms and harvest some resources to build a couple of these resorts, which is not always intuitively clear. I also need to read up on the rules for how tile appeal is determined; one of the players in the GOTM results thread mentioned planting additional forests on the tiles behind the coast to increase tile appeal, which sounds like a very useful tactic. This was the first game where I built seaside resorts in any kind of numbers, and I'm still figuring out how they work.

In the Greek campaign, I finally captured Knossus on Turn 233, the first turn that my cossack arrived on the scene. I cash-rushed an artillery unit and quickly took Sparta as well on Turn 237:

The whole thing could have been done a dozen turns earlier if I had known that rangers can't capture cities, or better yet, if I had simply sent off a knight or a pike or something with that initial attacking force. Sigh. Anyway, with Greece's two best cities under my control, the domestic cultural output of Gorgo was decimated. The Greek civ fell under 100 culture/turn, down from almost triple that number prior to this war. It was a shame that this was Gorgo as my opponent and not Pericles, as she refused to concede any of the captured cities and would not give me any Great Works or further cities in the peace deal. Normally the AIs fall all over themselves to surrender after taking a city or two; from a balance standpoint, this was a welcome change. I immediately Opened Borders again and sent a new trade route to Greece for the total +125% tourism bonus.

Note the tourism level as well at the top of the screen. In the nine turns since reaching Radio on Turn 228, I've gone from a base tourism of 852/turn to 1366/turn, and that's before adding all those trade route modifiers. I seriously underestimated the amount of tourism that would be produced from the seaside resorts with the Cristo Redentor + Eiffel Tower combination (both of which I did have). I had heard about this before in the forums, but seeing it in action was something else entirely. Wow. I wish that Civ6 would make it clearer in-game where all of your tourism is actually coming from; hovering over the number at the top of the screen just displays "from cities". Thanks game. Tourism from seaside resorts is even worse because the number does not update mid-turn when a seaside resort is planted, only updating the following turn, and by then it's hard to know what caused the overall number to increase. All I know is that my tourism number was skyrocketing here in the final turns as I continued to plant additional seaside resorts along the coasts of my empire.

And yes, we were in the final stages of the game at this point. If you tally up the compilation picture above, I was producing 18,670 total tourism on this turn. That was about 15 new foreign tourists EACH turn, sheesh. Even with the massive accumulation of domestic tourists that Greece had managed to put together in this game, it wasn't going to take too long to achieve victory. As I've said in other reports, I had reached terminal velocity for the cultural win. (One small side note: France stuck out like a sore thumb in the above picture. I never did manage to get a trade route to them despite a great deal of trying. Both the current and lifetime tourist figures were significantly lower than the other civs. And the effects of those long war turns against Greece with no trade route bonus were also obvious.)

I was one foreign tourist short on Turn 240, and the game ended on the following interturn. Cultural victory on Turn 241. I had 1568 tourism on the final turn before winning, a mere dozen turns after reaching Radio tech. Definitely should have researched that one sooner. (I didn't even mention the Broadcast Centers, which finally let me use those Great Musicians that had been sitting around collecting dust for the whole game!)

This is the cultural bar graph from the postgame screen, which I'm including mostly to highlight the performance of Greece. The AI managed to reach 200 culture/turn at a relatively early date and then largely stalled out there without being able to progress any further. I suspect this was partly due to the fact that Greece ran out of territory to plant more cities; their initial island only had room for five of them, and I had about triple that in my homeland. The AI also tends to fall apart in Civ6 the longer that the game goes on, and this graph serves as further proof for that general rule. Nevertheless, it was an impressive performance, especially for "only" Emperor difficulty. If this is what I had run up against on release day, I probably would have lost this game.

Reading the other reports posted in the GOTM forum was highly informative. The fastest finishes came from players who attacked and crippled Greece early in the game, as I had known that they would. There was a Turn 189 victory that only required 77 foreign tourists to win, because Greece had been killed off and half the world had been burned down from endless naval raids on the part of the player. At the same time in my game, Greece had 291 domestic tourists, and the player in question wouldn't have been even close to winning. But of course that's because I had been playing a mostly peaceful game up to that point, after the initial strike against Egypt to clear out enough land for a solid core of cities. I dislike the way that all of the victories in Civ6 are so adversarial in nature, everything other than the Spaceship heavily rewarding warfare. Since the cultural victory condition is "produce more tourism than other civs produce culture", you can win by amassing a ton of tourism... or you can win by ruthlessly killing off everyone else, and that doesn't make a lot of sense. I miss Civ4's triple 50k cultural victory condition, or Civ5's pre-expansion 30 social policy victory condition. They were more about building up your own civ and less about manipulating the rules to amass tourism in sneaky ways. Even though I like the overall idea of the cultural victory in Civ6, any competition badly needs some controls on it to prevent the whole thing from devolving into yet another "who can kill the AIs the best" game. We will keep this in mind for future Epics/Adventures at Realms Beyond.

I also learned a lot about the importance of seaside resorts for a cultural victory, in particular from whacker's game where he had an astonishing 1768 tourism as early as Turn 176 (!) almost entirely from seaside resorts. Apparently they really are that powerful when used to their utmost. As far as my game went, I'm pretty happy with the Turn 241 result. I made several key mistakes that cost me additional time: the failed Stonehenge build, the dozen turns wasted outside Egypt's final city before signing peace, the poor route through the tech tree after researching Computers, and the botched attack on Greece due to the lack of a melee unit for city capture. Fixing some of these mistakes likely could have shaved 15-20 turns off of my result, although I don't think I could have won before Turn 200 without trying a competely different strategy. I picked up a lot from the other reports, including about scenario design concerning what things to REMOVE from future Epics to make them more entertaining. The GOTM does a great job of identifying the optimal strategies, which are exactly the things that I intend to mess around with in future variants.

For anyone reading this report linked from the GOTM forum, feel free to check out some of the Epics and Adventures at Realms Beyond if you want to try something a bit different. If this scenario description for Epic One sounds like your cup of tea, we do a lot of offbeat competitions like this on a monthly basis. For everyone else, thanks for allowing me to take part in this event. I had a good deal of fun.