Game: 3 vs. 3 Team Game
Map: Small Wheel
Settings: 2 city-elim, No Barbs, 120 turns
MP defaults: Quick, Medium turn timer
While we continue to wait endlessly on the upcoming patch, one thing that I've been trying to do is play a few more Multiplayer games. Speaker has been organizing some more events with Realms Beyond folks, people who are just getting started in the realm of MP, so I've been helping out with that a bit. On this particular Saturday morning, however, Speaker was at work, so I helped Gogf organize a MP game for some of our newcomers. Joining us today were Dantski, Knupp, Pholkhero, and Snaproll, setting up an obvious 3 on 3 game. I didn't know most of these faces, but Snaproll played with me in our abortive Civ3 Play by Email game, so there was some actual MP experience there!
Gogf suggested that we run teams of Sulla/Dantski/Pholkhero and Gogf/Knupp/Snaproll, which I saw no problem with. I setup the game for a Small Wheel map, one of my favorites for MP which allows for multiple angles of attack. Everyone went Random on the civs, with my team drawing Victoria (me), Tokugawa (Pholkhero), and Cyrus (Dantski) versus Qin (Gogf), Isabella (Snaproll), and Frederick (Knupp). Here's the start I drew:
Interesting stuff there. Lots of hills (although mostly desert hills) and two bonus food tiles. The pigs and gold were especially good resources to have, although mobility to the south would be hindered by that rough terrain. The BAD news is that I drew the backline start, with Pholkhero and Dantski on the front lines. Umm... between the two of them, they have exactly 2 games of MP experience. This was, in fact, Pholkhero's first-ever MP game. It was a tough assignment for both of them, so I tried to do the best I could to call a good game from the backlines, but with that timer ticking down, it can be tough. We'll see what happens.
I had no 2-food tiles in the initial starting radius of London, so it was an easy call to go with a worker first. My scout headed west, naturally, towards the other team through the tundra center of the map. I popped a LOT of huts with my scout, and got tons of gold (over 300 gold from huts!) but our team never managed to pop a tech. Oh well. Both Pholkhero and Dantski also started with scouts, so they began by building warriors, which was a prudent move. I called the tech path, led us first to Meditation and Buddhism (which was founded in London), then we went for Animal Husbandry and Bronze Working. Nothing too special there.
Meanwhile, Gogf had sent a warrior forward to scout out Dantski in the south:
This was when we found out where the other team was located: Gogf in the south, Snaproll in the north across from Pholkhero, and Knupp in the back lines. Persepolis was in no danger, but I'm sure Dantski didn't have much experience with an enemy unit around his capital so soon, and I was worried that he might panic. Fortunately that didn't happen, and Dantski did a good job of hooking up his horses with a worker under the shadow of that enemy warrior. We were lucky that there was a horse just outside Dantski's capital! At one point, however, Gogf was able to attack Dantski's worker in a warrior vs. warrior one-on-one battle. That was basically a pure dice roll, which fortunately we managed to win. I don't think Dantski realized what a break that was for us at the time, but I was very relieved.
In the backlines, I built a scout after my worker to explore the north and have a sentry in the center tundra, then proceded onto Stonehenge. I did complete that wonder while growing my capital up to size 5, then went on a settler/worker splurge for a while, eventually getting out to 6 cities. I also slipped in the Oracle at one point, taking Metal Casting with the free tech. I would eventually get some help to my teammates, but frankly with the distances involved there wasn't much I could do in the early game. They would just have to hold their one-on-one matchups for the moment until I could build more cities and get some roads up to their civs.
Dantski had initially built some immortals and sent them after Gogf, but by the time he reached the other side, Gogf had hooked up some metals and built spears. Ah well, no chance to get a kill therefore. For a few turns there was relative quiet. Then the first major attack from the other team came with about 50 turns left to go in the game, with Gogf coming after Dantski with axes and spears:
Note that Dantski has aggressively pushed a city forward here, controlling the landbridge between their two civs. That's not a bad play by any means, but you have to make sure you can defend it! We had managed to reach Construction shortly before this point, so with the aid of a whipped cat or two, Dantski was able to destroy the incoming stack when it emerged onto the flat ground outside Pasargadae. The units that were not killed limped back to China to lick their wounds. We managed to survive the first assault, but with a lead in points (and growing), I expected that there would be more to come.
My attention had naturally been focused on the attack against Dantski in the south, but Snaproll was putting pressure on Pholkhero in the north at the same time. Within 10 turns, we were nearly at a critical level up there:
Snaproll has cut the road between Osaka and Kyoto, and there are quite a few swords and axes running around up there. This potentially could have been disastrous, but we had fortunately just teched up to Machinery, and so Pholkhero was able to whip some crossbows for defense. Those crossbows totally owned Snaproll's axes and swords, and so along with some cats for collateral damage, the crisis was averted. Gogf had to leave the game briefly (note the message) but he returned within 5 or so turns.
Some notes here for Pholkhero to keep in mind for future games... First of all, there was way too much cover for the incoming armies. Some of those forest and jungle tiles really should have been chopped ahead of time, as Snaproll could literally walk all the way up to Kyoto with defensive cover. That's not good! At the very least, the forest tile where the road has just been pillaged should have been chopped. Secondly, the management of Kyoto and Osaka is, umm, interesting. Kyoto has two plains hill tiles (marked with yellow Xs), both on rivers, and yet neither one has been mined or is being worked? That's a LOT of lost production there. Osaka has an unconnected rice, and two unconnected silver resources, while it works two unimproved grassland tiles? Err... this could have been improved upon. I know it's tough to keep track of things in the heat of a MP game, but production is still at the heart of Civ games. I'm sure that Pholkhero will improve on this with time!
Pholkhero also has no safe backline cities, like the rest of us do. A third city in the backlines, towards me, would have helped us out a lot. There was good land over there too. Fighting with two cities against the other guy's three is never a winning proposition!
Anyway, things were pretty quiet for the next dozen turns, perhaps too quiet, lulling some of us into a false sense of security. Dantski moved about half of the units in Pasargadae out of the city and pushed them forward, I guess to scout out ahead. I'm not sure exactly what the rationale was for that. Well, they ran into Gogf's incoming monster elephant/cat/axe stack and were slaughtered in the open. Oops, that's not good! Knupp had contributed a lot of units to that stack as well, and it began moving after Dantski's aggressive settlement. As soon as I saw that stack, I knew the city was doomed (though I didn't tell that to my teammates; of course, they probably had figured that out already themselves). Sure enough, Pasargadae fell a couple turns later:
Expecting this to happen, I was frantically building a road through the center of the map down towards Dantski to get my own units into play. My civ was now fully up to six cities and converting over to military production, but I wasn't sure if I would be able to get there in time to save Dantski. You can see on the minimap that the tundra in the center was lit up; that's due to my workers and horse archers building roads there. I ran into a small stack from Gogf there, and destroyed it, although I did suffer some losses. Due to the distances involved, I really had no choice but to build horse archers, because one-move units simply weren't going to move fast enough to get there in time. FORTUNATELY we were researching Feudalism at the time, which I had picked en route to Guilds. With longbows sure to come online before the stack researched Dantski's capital, I knew we would have a chance.
Uh oh, here comes the stack!
Here is the combined Gogf/Knupp stack as Dantski and I frantically try to hit it with cats. Note my pipeline of units coming down from the north! My workers built a road all the way there through the tundra in the center of the map. Also note the peaks/water geographical formation next to Dantski's capital, argh. Without that barrier, I could have pushed the road south from my civ and shortened the trip considerably. But with that there, it forced a long detour to the west, and made the center route faster. Dantski did do a nice job of clearing a killing field by chopping all the forests in the advancing path of the invaders. That made things much easier!
In the end, it was a very close battle, but we managed to hold the city. Here is the stack on its last legs getting wiped out:
The combination of longbows and crossbows in the city proved to be too much for the attackers. I'm not sure if the units I sped into the area changed the outcome of the fight, but at the very least they helped significantly. Persepolis held and so Dantski was not eliminated.
At this point, I was confident that we were going to win the game. We had the technological edge, we were far ahead in points, and we had just defeated Gogf/Knupp's army - not to mention that there were only some 15 turns left to go. Well, the one problem was that I had been focusing on the action at the bottom of the map and ignored the top. Rightly so, I think, but Pholkhero was in more trouble than I realized against Snaproll. At some point during the fighting in the south, Pholkhero asked me "should I found another city?" and I told him that of course he should do so, if it were possible. Now my expectation was that he would found a city in the backlines, but I did not spell this out explicitly. Instead, Pholkhero founded a new city aggressively towards Snaproll, with no roads connecting it to his civ, and with only 3 units to guard it. You can see the location on the minimap above, circled in yellow. That was, erm, not the best decision. Snaproll began moving an army forward at this time, and he razed the city pretty easily without much issue. Pholkhero was now down a city.
Furthermore, Gogf now moved a new force up from the south towards Pholkhero's city of Osaka. It was all cats and one elephant, really not a very tough force to defeat, but combined with Snaproll's incoming units, suddenly there was a very grave threat to Pholkhero. I had four workers in the center of the map, frantically building a road through the tundra towards Pholkhero's civ, but it ended up being too slow. The other team razed Osaka and that was that.
My horse archers are literally 2 or 3 turns away from reaching the front, but I just wasn't fast enough. I blame myself for not getting assistance to Pholkhero sooner, but the dire threat to Dantski slowed me just enough to lose this race. Frankly, I also should have done more to push a road up through the north to his civ as well. The logistics of Pholkhero being SO far away from my cities made things tough. The fact that there was no backline Japanese city towards me, which would have extended roads towards my civ, didn't help though. In the end, the other team simply outproduced Pholkhero and overran him with units. I take the blame for not sending enough help, however. Expanding forward towards the enemy, when we had a large points lead and simply had to avoid elimination - that was a weedy move though.
The final 10 turns were simply a points race. I had a lot of horse archers in the middle of the map, but those were easily countered by Gogf's spears and elephants. I knew he had them, and wasn't expecting to succeed, of course... (I had wanted to push for Guilds on the tech tree, which would have given me access to knights, but the other players insisted on Civil Service instead. Of course, both techs probably came a little too late to be of much use.) I ended up with over 1000 points, but it wasn't enough to win. We were only out-pointed by about 100 though, which was pretty darn good for being down a man.
So it was a disappointing loss, but I was pleased with the way our newcomers did here. Pholkhero, Snaproll, and Dantski all had no real experience with MP and played well. I hope that we'll be able to hold more games down the road.
And the final map: