Getting culture flips in this game always involves a great deal of luck. No matter how much pressure you put on an enemy city, the chance for a flip on any one turn never climbs higher than 10%, and it's usually more in the area of 5%. You need two revolts to flip a city too, remember. Worst of all is the way that city defenders can suppress the chance for a flip completely; as few as 4 defenders often makes a city completely impossible to take over culturally. Thus, if you're going to take over the world with culture, you need to go on the offensive at some point and kill the AI units serving on flip suppression duty.
After building up a small army during the previous dozen turns, I judged it was time to start moving against my neighbors in 1180AD. With two cities right on my border under heavy cultural pressure, Pericles was the first target of opportunity:
Once I declared war, I saw that Suleiman was willing to attack as well, so I brought him in for a cheap tech. Now I had no goal of letting the Ottomans take any Greek cities; this was merely a step taken to poison relations between the two AIs and ensure that Suleiman would never vote for Pericles in the UN elections. That was my greatest fear at this point. (Quick note: the best path to victory in these passive-aggressive games is to get the AI to capture cities for you, then flip the weakly-held conquests. I deliberately held off doing this because I wanted to see how much progress I could make advancing directly into the teeth of the AI civs. I expect the top-scoring game will make use of this tactic, or possibly vassalize one of the civs and get THEM to capture enemy cities - which is technically within the letter of the rules, but not really in its spirit.)
My forces were all knights and trebuchets. Why? All the defenders I wanted to kill were longbows, and knights had the best odds against them by a large margin. With the new castle fortifications in Beyond the Sword, I needed either a bunch of spies or a huge stack of trebuchets to take down city defenses. Since I'm an old fogey who doesn't particularly care for the espionage system, I built the big stack of siege weapons.
Killing the defenders paid off right away, as I saw a revolt in Argos two turns later (1200AD). On the very next turn, Corinth saw its second revolt and flipped!
Since Corinth was not in the absolute perfect location, I burned it down as well. Get used to it - few cities are naturally in the right spot for this kind of variant. I replaced it with two different push cities: Ostia went one tile north of Corinth, on the coast, while Velitrae went two tile south, on the stone resource. Those were the best possible locations for applying pressure into the Greek core, although I still wasn't entirely happy. Knossus was in an awkward coastal location as far as cultural purposes went.
Note the execs sitting around in place on the left side of the screen, just waiting for Corinth to flip. Might as well get prepared early, so you can start applying culture immediately when the flip occurs!
Little happened over the following century, until my aggression was rewarded with another flip at Argos:
Argos I kept. I could not place a city further east, because the duo of Athens and Hamburg ruled it out. I did notice that I could put a city three tiles directly south of Argos, on the German fort jutting out into the sea. That was an opportunity for a little later, once Argos got its own culture up and running.
With the flip of Argos, the Greek front was more or less finished for now. I wasn't even at war with Pericles, since he had gotten his UN cronies to vote an end to the war. Until Athens was ready to flip, there was no need to go back on the attack there. Technically I was at war with Peter, who had declared out of the blue a little earlier... but since he didn't have Open Borders with his neighbors, he couldn't even reach me. We eventually made peace after an entirely phony war.
On the very next turn, I got lucky in my faraway German colony:
Three flips now, excellent. Dormund was holding out, with four units on garrison (have to do something about that eventually!), but Essen only had a pair of longbows and was easy prey. I already had two settlers waiting to go, as seen above, so I burned down Essen and remade the landscape in my favor:
That's one of my favorite parts of this variant, rearranging the landscape with aggressive city foundings. Over time, everything is swallowed up by the advancing cultural landscape. There is an evenness to the game's pacing, a feeling of inevitability akin to the advance of a glacier. And it's a lot of fun. I had the Civ Jewelers execs ready to go right away, so grabbed them in the screenshot as well. Note that expanding this corporation actually resulted in a profit, gaining 15 gold/turn compared to the last screenshot (and that's including the higher maintenance of having two more farflung cities). Thus the reason why I made Civ Jewelers the first corporation in every new settlement. Poor Arretium was always overworked trying to supply these new cities with execs and defenders, as the only core city down here!
After all modifiers were added, Virconium was getting 276 culture on the turn it was settled (Civ Jewelers + Sushi). Not bad.
Well, I had to do something with my army, right? No sense having those cuirassiers sit around doing nothing when I could knock out the defenders in York. I went ahead and killed the units in London too, even though it wasn't quite ready to flip yet. Might as well, right? Poor Lizzie never really had a chance in this game. Her core is virtually gone, eaten up by the cultural monsters of Rome and India. (Gandhi seemed to be going for a Cultural victory, because his cities were holding up extremely well so far.) It was only a matter of time now before all of the English territory would be mine...
What do you know, another flip. This one was expected, and past time - Chicago was completely crushed from the outset by Circei's culture. I decided to keep it; no real point, I guess, except that Circei already had way more food than it needed. Another location where I could do some corporate spread and score scenario points.
And then something entirely unexpected happened: Elizabeth became Frederick's vassal. Which meant...
Fred declared war on me. Argh! Damned buggy game. The whole "master instantly declares war on you when they take a vassal" thing is totall unacceptable, since it was FIXED in a previous patch, then re-broken in 3.17. No excuse for this, not one bit.
So now instead of a lazy, comfortable war with a pathetic England, I've got hot war on my hands with Frederick, who happens to be the #1 civ in terms of the power graph. And I have new cities in the south that are only lightly defended, right on the German border. Great. Thankfully, I had trained a few extra machine guns "just to be safe" out of Arretium earlier when there wasn't anything else to build. They were going to see some real combat now, until I could scramble together a relief fleet to get my main army across the southern bay.
Tarentum... poor Tarentum. Right on the border with Germany, there was nothing I could do. It fell to a giant swarm of grenadiers and cuirassiers:
I had just finished the Statue of Liberty (1350AD), which did little to cheer me up at the moment. Because cities won't flip back to the civ that lost them in battle, I was faced with the sad prospect that I would NEVER be getting control of Tarentum again. Only way to control it would be to attack the city, which I wasn't going to do. Not going to forfeit the 200 scenario points for peaceful domination. So Tarentum is lost, and that was going to set back my cultural push in the extreme south by decades, if not centuries. Argh!
More important at the moment was holding onto my other two cities, however. Arretium was pretty safe, since I was confident I could get reinforcements to it before the AI could march through all that Roman culture. Virconium was another story. If I lose that city, my cultural push down here in the south is finished, because I'll never be able to flip either of the ex-Roman cities. I *HAD* to hold that location, or watch all my work down here go for naught, thanks to getting trapped by that ridiculous bug.
One turn later, here's the situation:
By stripping Arretium bare, I could muster three machine guns in Virconium, plus a crapload of cultural defense. Will that be enough? Maybe. There are at least three grenadiers in position to strike, plus heaven knows how many cuirassiers out in the fog. The one saving grace is that the desert tile northeast of the city is sitting at 49% Roman culture, and will go over to my control before the next turn. Then all 1-move German units will have to spend a turn sitting in my borders before they can attack, which will slow them down further. I just needed to hold another turn...
Well, fortunately the city did. Between turns I killed about half a dozen German units, with all three machine guns taking damage. With one of them having Medic I promotion, they all healed up quickly though. Frederick pulled back for a turn to lick his wounds, and by the time he got his siege units into play on turn 199, I had landed my first two boatloads of cuirassiers, which sliced them to bits with their flanking attacks. By the time that Fred could bring his main stack to bear, I had five going on six defenders in Virconium, and that was that. It had been a VERY close call though, one of the tighest spots I can remember in some time. As I often do unknowingly, I stopped taking pictures because I was concentrating so much on the game. Sorry! You'll have to live with my description here.
The immediate crisis averted, the next event of interest was another flip:
Phillie finally did fall, after a long time sitting at one revolt. This pic does a good job of showing my progress in the southwest, where I had a settler and corporate execs waiting to found the replacement city one tile to the left. Lincoln had founded Standard Ethanol and spread it around a fair amount, which was bad since it conflicted with Sid's Sushi. I figured out by now that there was no natural oil anywhere on the map, and it had to be produced artificially with Ethanol. In practice, this meant many of my enemies would be building ships running on oil, while I, dependent on Sushi, had to use wooden vessels! More on that a little later.
The one and only benefit of the German war was that I could now target Fred's cities with impunity. After the crisis had been averted, I knocked out the defenders at Dortmund and sat back to wait on the flip. It came along in reasonable time:
This one I kept too. The southeast was fairly quiet for the moment, at least as quiet as it could be while war was still declared. My hot streak continued as I landed another flip on the other side of the world, on the very next turn:
Yep, that's why I went to war with Liz. Note that Bombay is revolting, and I'm starting to make serious progress into the Indian core. Cumae STILL didn't have control over all 21 of its tiles, but I was getting close. Eventually, even Gandhi's cultural monsters were starting to collapse.
With my western and southern fronts quiet for the moment, it was time to select another target. I considered going after Gandhi next, until he signed a defensive pact with Lincoln. So much for that! Besides, his cities were showing signs of flipping to me anyway, even without taking out the flip garrisons. That meant the best target was my old enemy Pericles:
Quite a change here from the last time we saw the eastern front! Athens was uncontrollably starving down to smaller sizes as it lost its tiles, and Knossus wasn't much better off. I would spend the next few turns killing off the outdated Greek trash units, then dig in and wait for their cities to flip to me. I had been pretty lucky with Argos and Corinth, but things wouldn't go quite so fast with Athens...
That brought me to 1500AD, and the second scoring mark. First, overview shots of my civ. The East:
I was one tile away from connecting the two halves of my empire! Now West:
And inside Rome, for scoring purposes:
3 corporate HQs = 150 points
(16 + 20 + 21) 57 branches = 114 points
19 cities over size 5 = 57 points
8 flips (Hastings, Corinth, Argos, Essen, Chicago, Philadelphi, Dortmund, York) = 240 points
Total = 561 points
I was happy with these numbers. I'm sure more could have been done in terms of spreading corporations around, but I needed to keep a lot of income going into tech, and couldn't just spam them willynilly for no purpose. Frederick and Lincoln in particular were teching like demons - if I were going to fight them, I had to have at least military parity! The eight flips in particular I think are a good score, I'm most interested to see how everyone else does there. That's the most luck-based of the categories, and I think I was fortunate with the dice rolls.
Now my goal was simple: win the game as soon as possible to minimize the scoring penalty for late finishes.