In the screenshot on the last page, I was researching Optics at the bottom of the tree. I had two reasons for going there; the first being to get some caravels into the water and find the final continent, hopefully nailing the circumnavigation bonus in the process. (The second reason for having Optics on hand will be clear in a minute.) After that, I knocked out Paper tech in about a half-dozen turns, becoming the first civ to reach it. I burned a Great Scientist on Education in 1090AD, which knocked out 2/3 of the tech and guaranteed that I would be the first one to reach Liberalism. Ahh, gotta love that Great Library and the scientists it gives you!
Meanwhile my first caravels were hitting the water already, and spreading the faith to an offshore colony of Cathy's:
I had not known that this little island was here. I did remember Cathy sailing a galley around in the south with a settler on board some time earlier, but since I never saw it again, I figured it had been sunk by a barb galley. Bzzt - wrong! Instead Cathy locked down this very fertile location with rice and (argh!) gems. I could sure use that happy resource! I wonder if any of our players will manage to get here first. Quite possible, but you'd have to do some naval scouting with galleys or work boats just to know it was there. I was happy with the land I did manage to grab.
As the caravel you see above rounded the northern tip of Cathy's island and entered into the rolling waves of the ocean proper, it encountered a ship flying a new flag that my Arabians had never seen before:
Napoleon popped up to say hello. That's not so bad, but look closely at the scores on the right side of the screen. I have also been introduced to Bismarck, Roosevelt, and Gandhi. Ummm... That must mean...
THEY ARE ALL ON A TEAM TOGETHER!!!
Seriously Sirian, a team of FOUR?! I never thought that this game would be THAT cruel. I guess that's why it's called an "Extreme" Adventure! (Just wait until you see what their continent looks like. This is only the tip of the iceberg.)
Anyway, once I picked myself up from the floor and got over the fact that all four of the civs on the eastern team had as many cities as I did, I went back to exploring the oceans and continuing my push up the tech tree. For all of their high scores and immense amount of territory/population, the eastern bloc was actually technologically backwards. That wasn't all that reassuring - it just meant that they were still expanding, and they would be monsters down the road - but for the moment I was in decent shape. For the moment.
This was a very positive sign:
First to Liberalism, woohoo! And at 1180AD, the date was rather on the early side too. It was especially fast considering that there was No Tech Trading on for this game. Of course, my situation isn't quite as good as it seems; I still lack Feudalism and everything on the bottom of the tree past it, as this was a rather direct beeline. But you can't argue too much with success! As far as the tech goes, I wanted Astronomy all along (and this is the other reason why I had to research Optics) for access to the observatories and overseas trade routes. With half-cost universities for being Philosophical, I could speed through them and then push right onto observatories, continuing my strong research effort. Again, I'm still not sure how viable this will be long-term, but for now it's working like a charm.
A couple turns later, Cathy finalls asks me the question we all knew was coming:
Hey Cathy, what took you so long? I was expecting this out of you a lot sooner. She waited 22 turns to ask me to join in the war - I thought it would be more like 5. Naturally I agreed (ignore what the screenshot is mousing over); I needed to share either a war or a defensive pact to get the permanent alliance with Cathy, so this was a perfect opportunity. I had been trading with Vicky at a profit to both of us, but I didn't really have a choice. Cathy told me to declare, so declare I did. Sorry, Vicky.
By the way... I went back and poked through the XML again, and if I'm reading it correctly, it's actually impossible to get a Permanent Alliance with Alex. He will never sign one under any conditions. That means that Cathy is the ONLY choice in this game for the alliance. Did Sirian know that (?) I'm guessing no, because it seems like a very odd design. Everything else about this scenario was extremely well constructed, however.
So now I'm at war with Team Financial, but it's almost completely phoney. I'll have to start work on a navy to protect my coasts, however. Meanwhile, Mecca builds Sistine in 1220AD because it's so cheap to do so, one of my favorite wonders. You can do so many cool things with those culture-producing specialists... Then Alex completes Hagia Sophia on the same date. Way to go Team Hindu!
Unfortunately, the eastern team finished circumnavigating the globe in 1230, when I was still about a dozen turns away from doing so. I had really wanted that too. Of course, they had four different civs sailing caravels around, so it was hardly a fair competition! By now, I was beginning to get a view of their continent in the east, and it's just massive. "Big" doesn't begin to cover it. This does not look good long-term. The fact that I was only #3 in land area, even with all my cities, was hardly an encouraging sign!
As I constructed my universities/observatories, and Mecca worked on Oxford, I popped a Golden Age to speed things along:
Philosophical civs sure do get a lot of Great People, don't they? These were GP #5 and #6 right here. Of course, I did help things along a bit with the Great Library and other wonders. If you're not getting lots of Great People with a Philosophical civ, you aren't playing to their strengths!
Meanwhile, one of my exploring caravels locates Mansa Musa:
Not going to be attacking there any time soon! If you look on the minimap, you'll see that Mansa was located way off in the east, on a separate island from the rest of Team Financial. Vicky and Huayna were sharing the southern continent. You can also begin to see the outline of the eastern continent, which takes up most of the space between those land masses. Not good.
I built my Forbidden Palace in Anjar at this time, but it didn't really seem to help that much. I guess even two city-lengths away doesn't mean much on a Large Map. Oh well, it didn't take much effort to build... I grabbed the free Great Merchant from reaching Economics first and used him as a super-specialist in Mecca. This early in the game, that was still likely the best move, especially because Mecca was going to be my Wall Street city.
As far as the war was concerned, I was content to defend my waters for now. They had caravels, but I had galleons:
Galleons are hardly an attack unit, but they ARE better than caravels, and you use what you can. I had a couple stacks of two galleons, which could together sink any caravel without fear. Still, with the average battle only getting about 70% odds, I lost a fair amount of ships. They lost more though.
After cleaning up the Guilds/Banking line of techs, I researched Nationalism to open up Nationhood civic (should I need to draft) and then began a push for Communism and my permanent alliance. Ordinarily you would also need to reach Military Tradition to enable Defensive Pacts, but with my shared military struggle taking place here, I could actually skip that and go right on to the commie tech. I made sure to sneak in a couple monasteries while researching Printing Press/Scientific Method. I had actually been in Organized Religion almost the entire game to this point, for the missionary spread and building boost, but those days wouldn't last forever. I largely avoided Mercantilism, even though it was a good civic for my Philosophical civ, until Cathy went there in 1430 and I figured I had better go there too! (Alex alone wasn't worth the trade route income. And no, I was NOT going to sign Open Borders with the eastern giants. I don't think that would be very smart at all to give them MORE trade route income!)
Scientific Method discovered in 1450, I enter the Industrial Age, and begin research into Communism. While that was taking place, this comical moment ensued:
I spent the whole early game patrolling this area to make sure no barbs would spawn, and my chariots finally have taken a well-deserved break. Then a barb horseman spawns in the THREE piddly tiles of fog left on the map?! Unbelievable. I whip a spear in Khurasan, but the horse pillages my copper, so it doesn't complete. Umm - uh oh. Archer vs. horse archer in these circumstances is basically a coin flip, which thankfully I did win, putting an end to this tragicomic incident. I had to wake up a chariot and post him in the unrevealed tiles to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Good grief!
I build Taj and trigger a golden age in 1500AD - coincidentally, Cathy also triggers a golden age the same year! What a "golden" time to unite our civs together! I discover Communism in 1505AD, and...
What do you mean we haven't shared a war long enough? We've been fighting together since 1210AD! And our relations are +17! Argh. Then again, I go back and count, and we've been sharing a war for exactly 30 turns. I would keep checking every turn, but I didn't expect her answer to change until 40 of them had passed. (Is it just me, or does that length seem incredibly gamey and artificial?)
Also in the news, Nappy's team declares on Vicky's team!
Well at least they won't be sitting back and helping each other tech into space! I could only take this as a positive sign. I later learned that it was triggered by some of Mansa Musa's settlements on the eastern continent. Nappy apparently got tired of them, and that was all she wrote for the continental Malinese colonies. Aside from some minor skirmishing, that was all that happened in their war.
So 1555AD rolls around, it's been exactly 40 turns since I began my shared war with Cathy, and lo and behold, now she'll agree to an alliance:
We were up to +18 relations, but apparently that was not as important as the HARD rule of spending 40 turns in a war/defensive pact together. (Can you tell I'm not particularly impressed with the implementation of permanent alliances? A lot of holes here, but frankly we had more important fish to fry during development.) I guess I shouldn't complain, as I really lucked out here. Not only was I able to skip Military Tradition (which I would actually never research in this game), but I got my Permanent Alliance at about the earliest possible date. That early war that Cathy found herself in was a HUGE break for me! It will be interesting to see just how early this was compared to the other games, and exactly how much of a benefit I derived from it.
The first thing I did once our civs were merged together was shift around some resources:
Yes Cathy, I am taking your only source of iron, rice, and gems. Frankly I need them a lot more than you do! Here, you can have gold and silver in return. Go build yourself some Cossacks with the horsies. (Of course I never researched Military Tradition, so Cathy would end up building a bunch of knights instead. What a moron!) By the way, this shot was just taken for screenshot purposes; I actually traded each resource one at a time. That way, I could cancel each deal individually rather than having to drop the whole thing in one fell swoop. Just a little trick of the trade.
Now I've never gotten a Permanent Alliance before, but I have played a lot with AI teammates, so I knew what to expect. We share research, resources, line of sight, yadda yadda. Line of sight into Cathy's cities revealed that Vladivostok was doomed:
Even the AI isn't incompetent enough to fail to take that city. (Maybe if it were on a hill it could hold out, but it isn't.) Nevertheless, I vow to return to the city and liberate it some day for the Russian people! Just, err, not today.
Now that I had Chemistry and Steel technologies, my civ shifted focus from peaceful buildup into wartime expansion. Organized Religion civic was replaced by Theocracy. That's right - I'm not at all confident that I can outbuild these massive AI coalitions to space. Cathy will help significantly, but we're looking at 20 or so cities combined against 50+ cities for the eastern juggernaut. Those are not good odds. Therefore, the SAFEST thing to do is actually to attack and grab more land, which will provide a better chance of winning down the road. And the best time to do it is now, while Team Financial is still running around with medieval units against my cannon and grenadiers. Things are going to heat up in a hurry!
One last oddity to report: I dialed science down to zero after getting Steel to upgrade my cats to cannon, yet I could still research Replaceable Parts in one turn! Huh?
Cathy adds her research to mine, but she doesn't have THAT much science! I can only conclude that there was some kind of massive overflow from both of us having so many of the same techs. Something wonky with the permanent alliance gave me tons of extra overflow beakers. Anyway, this was the only tech where I saw that happen, and I wasn't about to complain! Weird stuff though.
Team Hindu is on the march - the Financial bloc better watch out!