With the assimilation of Egypt, I now had all the land and resources I would ever need to win a space victory. In fact, I even popped a silver resource out of one of my mines in 1600AD, giving me control over all three metals for the first time. With this being only a Prince game, I certainly would have my pick of victory conditions from this point. The 1605 Demographics reflected my strong position at that date:
Despite massive warring for the past 50 turns, and the stagnation start, I had nearly managed to overtake the GNP leaders. Obviously I would quickly surpass that total as soon as the Egyptian cities came out of resistance and were fully improved. I had the typical player dominance in the other major categories (production, food, land, and population), even managing a high soldier count that reflected the military buildup. (Saladin was #1 in soldiers.) So what to do next?
Why, stomp all over Qin, of course. Did you think I would let his sneak attack go unpunished?
I had a narrow window of opportunity here to attack China and do as much damage as possible before Qin got rifles and upgraded all his medieval units. Here on Prince, where the AI upgrade discounts aren't quite so massive, there would actually be a couple turns before all of the old units could be outfitted with new rifles. (On Emperor and above, you might as well forget it. Every unit will be upgraded on the first turn.) Cavalry are almost useless against rifles, but they stomp pretty much anything earlier on the tech tree. The AI mass upgrades largely rule out cavs on the higher difficulties, but here I was sure I could do some major damage. Let's see how far I can get, shall we?
Xian was on a hill, but it made absolutely no difference. There were only three units defending, and down the city went in 1625. Caesar canceled Open Borders at this time, in response to my aggressive attack I guess, and so I swapped to Mercantilism since I only had existing trade routes with two civs (and Saladin was himself in Mercantilism!) I was stymied for one turn at Shanghai because I ran out of cavs to attack with, leaving a single cat with 1.4 health remaining in the city. D'oh! Well, that was easily cleaned up the next turn:
Striking with great speed, my cavs drove a spear into the heart of the Chinese defenses. Unfortunately, China did discover Rifling right around 1650. However, as I said above, with this being Prince difficulty, Qin's units did NOT all get insta-upgraded at once. I saw instead one or two rifles on defense in each city, with un-upgraded medieval units for the remainder. Not something I'm used to seeing! That allowed my City Raider maces, now upgraded to grenadiers, to get in some shots of their own:
The grenadiers peeled off the rifles on top, and then my cavs blitzed the remaining units. It made for a nice one-two punch. The only problem was that often the older longbows actually had better odds to defend against my grenadiers than the rifles! Nevertheless I was able to take out two rifles in this fashion at Chengdu (seen above; I actually managed to catch the bomb going off on the head of the longbowman).
Beijing was too far within Chinese culture to get my slow units there in timely fashion, so it had to be all cavs despite the 60% cultural defenses. No matter. My cavs frantically attacked the city, trying to kill as many defenders as possible before Qin could upgrade them to rifles. Qin actually helped me in that regard, attacking OUT of the city with his Cho-Ko-Nus for some reason (I guess the AI was programmed to use them to cause collateral damage to my stack). Here was the situation in 1665:
My cavs are pretty gassed at this point, but they have inflicted savage losses on Beijing. I would have taken the city but I just ran out of units to attack with! Now, time to end turn and hope that no rifles appear in the city...
Nope. Well, you know what that means...
I have to believe that the reason I didn't see any additional rifles in Beijing was due to the fact that all of Qin's longbow/Cho-Ko-Nus there were heavily damaged. The AI very likely is programmed to upgrade healthy units before injured ones, so I expect that he was spending his money on upgrades in other cities. In any case, I was glad for the easy taking of an AI capital city, and one which gave me a stronghold in the center of Chinese territory. With my offensive now gassed, and a significant number of rifles in Guangzhou, I made peace with Qin in exchange for all of his cash, but not before killing those exposed longbows you see above. He was trying to reinforce Beijing, but the longbows just didn't make it in time. What a pity.
Now notice the research choice in the pictures above: Communism. Yes, I'm heading for the uber State Property civic, which will be perfect for a bloated empire such as my own - not to mention the fact that I could get good use out of some watermills too. All those Egyptian cities were sitting on rivers and would be perfect for some State Property watermills (3 food/2 shields/3 commerce). I also built the National Epic in Memphis and farmed over pretty much everything there, turning it into a Great Person factory. It delivered a Great Prophet to go along with a Great Scientist that I had saved up, and you know what that meant:
Golden Age time! I swapped into State Property civic the following turn, and my income increased by more than 100 gold per turn. That definitely deserved a drink. Now in a golden age, researching at 80% science with more than a thousand beakers per turn, I was sitting pretty. Even better, I was about to land Statue of Liberty and add another Representation-fueled specialist in EVERY one of my many cities. Life can't get much better, can it?
Wait, there must be some mistake. What do you mean Mansa Musa completed the Statue before me?!
I had been building it in my top city, with the help of copper, and in a golden age. The ONLY way the AI possibly could have beaten me to the wonder would have been via a Great Engineer, and the replay later confirmed my suspicion. (Mansa got an Engineer by virtue of building the Hanging Gardens in BC times. What an unlucky break!) Anyway, that picture does allow me to show Salamanca, the city that supplied more than half of my military for this game. As a desert city with little potential for commerce, I built Heroic Epic there early on and simply cranked military for ages on end. I don't even know how many cavs it produced; it could make one every 2 turns, so I did that for a LONG time. What a useful city it turned out to be! (Also note the research into Biology above. Going for the very powerful State Property/Biology combo to grow my population and explode past these AI turkeys.)
Ten turns of peace with Qin were up in 1720AD, by which time I had restocked my army once again:
There are more grenadiers underneath the ... by the way. Here was the strategy that I planned to use to dismantle the rest of China:
One of the cardinal rules of war is never to divide your forces in the face of a superior enemy, but Qin had ceased to be in any way my military peer. Half of my units would take the northern route outlined in green, taking Guangzhou and then proceeding overland to Parthian. I went heavy on cavs with this bunch, since they had more potential ground to cover. The southern forces would take the route in blue, past Nanjing and Hangzhou. The terrain was more mountainous in that area, and so more of my foot troops (grenadiers and cannon) went that way. I would have loved to have some frigates on hand to bombard the defenses of these cities (they were all coastal, as you can see) in the style of my Epic Three game, but sadly I still did not have Astronomy tech. Whoops. At least I got 10 turns of use out of the Colossus (captured at Shanghai) before it obsoleted!
So I declare war as expected, and of course the war weariness is enormous right out of the gate again. I'm really getting sick of that feature, it's almost becoming a game breaker for me. Things went pretty much as expected at Nanjing, with cannon and grenadiers doing most of the work:
Resistance was much heavier in the north at Guangzhou; it looked like Qin was trying to make a stand there. Due to some bad luck on the combat rolls, I actually fell short of attackers the first turn trying to take it, with a single cat left on defense again. Heh. It did fall the next turn in 1745, although that lone cat took out a cav at 10% odds before it died. Argh!
Parthian, on the other hand, had virtually nil defense, so I blitzed through it without issue:
That just left Hangzhou on the eastern coast. It would have been better to wait another turn to attack, but I was at 30% culture tax from war weariness ALREADY (jeez, this is the 6th turn of the war!) and it had to end NOW. I suffer some losses, but the city goes down:
Payback was now achieved. From here it was time to consolidate and think about how to win the game, but the details on that will have to wait until the following page.