Session One: An Inauspicious Start
Our first session attempting to play this game ran into the dreaded connections issue (which has bugged Civ4 ever since release, and doesn't appear is ever going to be solved). But, after some reconfiguring of ports and firewalls, we were able to return and begin the game for real. Dreylin was unable to make a connection the first night, so we began with an AI in place of his civ. Here was my starting position:
Good stuff here! Floodplains, three deer resources, and both silver and gold. Judging by the map, I was also tucked away in the back lines. The perfect spot for the Industrious cheese-eaters of Vichy France to build some wonders for the team. As far as the rest of the Axis powers, regoarrarr's Germans were located in a rich floodplains region down at the bottom of the map, also in the back lines. Umm, maybe that wasn't the most realistic spot, but having our other Industrious leader (Bismarck) in the backlines wasn't bad. Ruff's Italians and cynyck's Japanese were placed in the east on the front lines, both of them with multiple cow starts on the rivers. They had plenty of food and production, but happiness would be an issue until regoarrarr and I could send them some extra metals. And finally, Dreylin's Spain was in the northeast, at the top of the map. Unfortunately, the AI was running things for this session, but since the AIs were set to Monarch, it actually started with a worker! An unintentional side-effect, to be sure. Dreylin had the worst starting location, but the AI didn't screw things up TOO badly on this first night...
We decided to start by researching Polytheism, so that we would get at least one religion to spread around. The AIs love to found religions, and were likely to get most of them - but we only needed one for the Axis team. While we were researching that, Ruff's scout ran into the enemy!
The Free French! De Gaulle and his followers must pay!
We would in fact get to Polytheism first, and Hinduism was founded... in Dreylin's AI-controlled Spain. Well, we weren't going to get much religious spread on this first night, but Dreylin would be able to patch things up on the next evening. After that, we cleaned up the usual starting techs while our scouts explored the vast stretches of the Great Plains. It turned out that the "other" France was to the south of Ruff, Mao's China was to the east of Dreylin, and England/Russia were both far to the east in the AI back lines. As far as the Americans went, we had seen a number of Roosevelt's scouts, but had not located his capital.
While playing through these initial turns, I snapped a picture of cynyck's capital:
Four cows, stone, and copper. Pretty good stuff. Ruff's Rome looked very similar, but I think he actually had five cows down there. Great Plains has some unique terrain, that's for sure! I've always enjoyed playing on this map script.
A word about the tech that we're researching... I had a mind to build the Oracle and use it to grab Civil Service. However, before pursuing that path, we stopped to get Iron Working first. The logic was sound, as iron would give Ruff the ability to build Praetorians, but I wondered if this would end up costing us the other goal. Keep that in mind.
Anyway, starting around 2000BC we began having a run of absolutely bizarre, horrendously bad luck. Cynyck's second city was slated to go to a forward location with iron and two cows. It was escorted by a City Garrison archer to be safe. Yet against all odds, an AI archer attacked the city, across a river, and managed to destroy it:
Cynyck said that the combat odds for the AI were 3%. Un-frickin-believable. Cynyck would bounce back, of course, but his growth curve was set back for a long time. It was a very bad break for all of us.
I built Stonehenge very early on, which was a great boon to our team (I was the only Creative civ), and started the Oracle as well. As an Industrious civ, I was able to build the wonder much faster than we were able to research Code of Laws, so I put it in the queue and waited the last couple of turns for our research to come in. While that was taking place, the AI civs stole the wonder from us ONE TURN before it was due to complete:
Look at that bar... we are literally mere beakers away from Code of Laws, but the AI has stolen the Civil Service slingshot away from us. And I mean that literally, because the tech that the AI civs took from the Oracle was, in fact, Civil Service! That was a very harsh blow for the team. And, in a strange twist of fate, the AI did NOT build the Oracle naturally. It was, in fact, rushed with a Great Engineer. Yes, the first Great Person produced by the AI was a Great Engineer. (In fact, the second Great Person was also a Great Engineer too!) I have never, EVER seen that happen before in Civ4. They had not built Pyramids or Hanging Gardens, so the only thing I can conclude is that one of the AIs popped Metal Casting from a hut, and then built an early forge. Needless to say, this was very strange.
With the AI leaders all running Bureaucracy civic now, the Allies zoomed past us for the moment in territory and score. Given the large distances on the map, the most important thing to do was expand for the moment and build up before pushing after the AIs later on. regoarrarr did find FDR around this time - and he was south of Ruff as well! Strange placement from the map generator, sticking two of the Allies down in the south. That could be a huge danger to Ruff and regoarrarr down the road, if left alone... but it would also be an opportunity to pick off some isolated foes if we could strike at the right time. Having Italian Praetorians on the frontlines could be a huge asset there!
Fortune continued to break against us in 1000BC, this time against Dreylin's AI-controlled Spain. Once again, a lone Chinese archer attacked against a fortified Spanish archer in a city and won at improbable odds:
I believe the odds on that were about 5%. Who do we have to lay around here to get some decent combat results?! (regoarrarr's comment I find amusing here) That Chinese archer then proceeded to pillage several tiles around Dreylin's capital while the huge garrison in Madrid looked on dumbfounded. Argh! An axe did cut it down eventually, but far too much damage had been done.
Oh, and Peter just rushed the Parthenon with his SECOND Great Engineer. Fantastic. At least I managed to get the Pyramids with the help of cynyck's stone. That would have been a huge blow if we had lost that to a Great Engineer.
Despite all of the strange things that were taking place, I felt that the team as a whole was playing well. cynyck rebuilt his lost city and did a good job of sending out scouts to warn of incoming danger. regoarrarr was expanding like mad down in the south and training some German bully-boys to rough up FDR. Ruff was developing a scary stack of Praetorians. And even Dreylin's AI was holding down the fort OK, aside from the recent bout of weed. (As for me, I was doing the builder thing with wonders, cottages, and economic expansion. Not all that much to discuss!)
By the very end of the session, it was time for the counterattack to begin. A combined German/Italian force took over New York:
Run, American dogs! Cower before the might of the Axis powers! Since Ruff had enough cities already, he ended up gifting New York to regoarrarr, which seemed like a good move all around. At this point, we stopped for the evening (750BC being a nice round number), but we promised to return to dish out some more punishment in the next session!
Session Two: Praetorian Rampage
We didn't have a lot of time to play on this evening, since Dreylin (I believe) had to leave after a single hour. Regoarrarr was also out of town, and we weren't about to play with TWO AIs in the game at once, so a short night it would have to be. Nevertheless, Ruff's antics would make it noteworthy indeed! After giving Dreylin a few minutes to sort through the weedy moves the AI had made in his absence, we resumed where we had left off the last time. First up: Ruff's Praetorians had been at the gates of Lyons when we stopped the previous week, so they resumed the assault:
Three Praetorians against an archer and a spear? Yeah, I don't think that's going to turn out too well for the Free French. The Confucian Holy City passed under the shadow of the Axis forces:
Just look at all those Praetorians, woot! Ruff was putting that quintuple cow start to good use! Oh, and look at what else is in range of Lyons: marble! That's a wet dream for a peaceful builder like the Frenchmen of Vichy. (Seriously, Industrious civs are scarily good for MP team play when they get control of both stone and marble.) I was confident that I could do great things with this down the road.
Unfortunately... first we suffered the onset of the barbarian hordes:
The larger the map, the more barbarians you encounter (their spawn rate is tied to the number of tiles in the fog of war; it also increases as you turn up the difficulty). Anyone who played Epic Four will know what I'm talking about! I should have been prepared for a barb attack, but since I had seen almost nothing over the past thousand years, this massive assault at 500BC caught me unaware. And it wasn't just my civ, as barbs seemed to make a coordinated attack all over the map at this point in time. I did have it the worst, however, being the most exposed up in the corner. Barbs even popped out of that narrow line of fog you see between Marseilles and cynyck's Japan. Yikes!
Now the other members of our team had a lot of military on hand, so the barbs didn't cause them too many problems, aside from some unfortunate pillaging (the marble at Lyons was pillaged, delaying its acqusition for many turns, argh!) However, I had next to no military, so this situation was more dangerous than it might appear. I actually had to whip Marseilles TWICE for axes, and I suffered some extensive pillaging around my capital, but no cities were lost and my cottages went untouched (I was guarding them the most). I did have both my silver and gold pillaged though, which was a happiness blow for some time. By about 300BC, however, the barb threat was over. Whew! And I made sure to post some units on the borders of my territory to spot future incoming barbs!
In the south, Ruff had been mostly untroubled the barbs, and instead continued to punish the French forces. A small city on the eastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico was razed to the ground, and then, with catapult support, Paris itself fell:
Scratch de Gaulle from the game! Then, because taking one AI capital wasn't enough, Ruff nabbed Washington as well:
Mussolini WISHES his army had been this effective!
FDR was on the run, but unfortunately it was time to stop. We planned to continue the next week with everyone back and present in the game for the first time (hopefully there would not be any more connections issues again!)