Game: 4 vs. 4 Team Game, Classical Start
Settings: Standard-sized map, No City Razing, 1 city-elim, 115 turns
MP defaults: Quick, Fast turn timer
I don't know all that much about the competitve Multiplayer world for Civilization, but one thing that I've kept hearing people talk about is something called the Clan Championship Cup, a repeating event designed to test the top "clans" (wow do I hate that word) in a series of competition games. This one, the 23rd overall (and again - shouldn't it have started over with #1 for Civ4? seems unnecessarily confusing to me) would be the first one I would play in with my Illuminati group of teammates.
The Clan Championship Cup (hereafter referred to as CCC) consists of a series of different events, designed to test all manner of different skills. There would be nine events for this particular competition, and we did our best to match up our personnel where they would be most effective. Thus, I decided to play in Event #5, a large teamer game (4 vs. 4) with a Classical era start. Our team that we would be fielding consisted of myself (Sullla), Cobra, Vermillion, and WarningU2.
Now there are some differences to Classical era starts that change things around compared to your usual Ancient start. Everyone begins with a settler, worker, scout, and archer, as well as all of the Ancient era techs (everything up to Writing and Bronze Working, basically). Thus you don't need to worry about going after worker techs, or when to build the first worker, and can get started much faster on military stuff. This game was also on a Balanced map, which is basically the same as a Pangaea execpt that all strategic resources are guaranteed to be within about 10 tiles of every start. This game pretty much played out like a typical Pangaea map.
We actually ended up drawing a bye through the first round of this event, which was cool because it gave us extra time to think about our strategy. All of the early wonders remain buildable in Classical starts, so we figured we'd want to have two Industrious civs, the most desirable ones being Qin (Vermillion) and Gandhi (WarningU2). Cobra figured that with the later start, we would surely reach Guilds and therefore he decided to take Isabella for the Conquistador unit. And as for me, having looked at the Standard-sized Balanced map in the Worldbuilder and realizing that it was rather on the large side, I decided we'd want to have one Philosophical civ to run Caste System and spam Great Artists. Thus I took Alex, for Philosophical/Aggressive. Of course, there was no guarantee that we'd be able to get these civs again in the next round, but we managed to get some good choices for our first game (the semi-final).
Our opponents in this game were a team from the GC group (I still don't know what that stands for!) consisting of Trinity (Mansa Musa), Dracs (Caesar), Donkey (Hatshepsut), and Philophobic (Bismarck). Based on their civ choices and what they had said in the lobby, we determined that their likely strategy would be an early rush. Hmm, my least favorite strat to have to deal with, could get interesting! Roll a map and get started - oh this is NOT good! My civ is all alone WAY out in front of everyone else, in a poor, poor starting position. Not a single hill to be seen anywhere, and aside from rice, just a couple of Calendar resources. Ouch! Not looking good. But two of the GC players crashed getting into the game, and after some Out of Sync issues, we had to start anew with a new map. WHEW! I don't know how things would have gone, but I did NOT have a good feeling about that one, especially in a one-city elimination game!
The second map, the one we played, gave us a much better draw:
OK, this is good stuff here. Highly fertile river valley, with sheep for extra food and hills galore for production. Plus horses! Yes, I can work wonders with this start for sure. Furthermore, based on the starting positions, we can already tell that Vermillion (China, to my east) and Cobra (Spain, to my northwest) will be on the front lines and will take the brunt of enemy attacks. WarningU2 will sit in our back lines and build us some wonders, while I play a supporting role and try to simultaneously boost our defenses when needed and develop our economy. Perfect! Couldn't have drawn it up any better.
Having had some experience with this start before, I followed what I feel is usually the best strategy, at least when you have some room: chop a worker right away with the starting worker, then use the two to develop the capital in rapid fashion. With a forested hill that I would be mining anyway within range, it was an easy call. Then the workers split up to pasturize the sheep and horses, and I was in business. I believe that Cobra and Vermillion followed a similar strategy out of the gate, but they went onto military right away (they had to!) whereas I then had Athens produce a granary next while growing its population as rapidly as possible. Gotta get that pop up, especially when I was lucky enough to land Buddhism in my capital (the 3 early religions get awarded randomly in these starts - not a great solution, but we were never able to come up with anything better). That meant 2 more population levels with religion + temple, very nice, and fast border expansion for points (yes, points matter a lot in MP!) Meanwhile, WarningU2 started on Oracle IMMEDIATELY and chopped several forests to ensure that we would get it. I don't know if the other team made a play for it, but we successfully grabbed the wonder and took Metal Casting with it (having researched Iron Working first). That allowed us to go right on to Machinery, which would prove to be a critical tech. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
My first settler went to the northwest, onto the tile where the goody hut is located in the above picture. Meanwhile, as I was peacefully expanding, Cobra - who was isolated and by himself - was already under some pressure up in the north. Donkey and Philophobic were both quite close to him (Philophobic was REAL close), and there was one close call early on near his capital. But after we busted some more fog early on with our scouts, we found out that there was a river that ran all the way from Athens to Madrid, and so I was able to trade Cobra horses early on. Those horse archers relieved the initial pressure, and Cobra went on to put pressure on Philophobic instead, pillaging for a while around her capital before the other GC team members came and relieved the city. There was no chance of taking Berlin, but Cobra did some nice damage and kept the pressure on. Vermillion in the east was at the same time expanding with a second settler into his back lines (towards me) and near a source of iron. And just in time! Horse Archers from Draca's Rome were coming after him, and I even sent a phalanx over at one point just to be safe. But Vermillion got out his spears just in time, and the iron was not disconnected. Whew. While all that was going on, WarningU2 helped us out enormously by building Stonehenge - NONE of us were Creative civs, so that was a HUGE deal. (Did the other team forget about that wonder? They could have had it pretty easily...) Thanks buddy.
So the game had largely been a stalemate through the first 40-50 turns, but the action was now beginning to heat up as the opening phase ended and the armies became fully engaged. Draca's Rome was preparing significant stacks of Praetorians now, and Trinity was supporting him with pillaging Skirmishers from the north. Vermillion wasn't exactly in trouble, but the situation had the potential to go downhill. Fortunately, we knew what we were doing with our tech path:
There's my civ after being developed a bit. More importantly, look at the tech: Machinery! We were able to get there pretty quickly since WarningU2 had gotten us the Oracle and Metal Casting. In all the game, if there is ONE civ that's not afraid of those Roman legions, it's China! Vermillion was able to get his first Cho-Ko-Nus out right at the same time as the first Praetorians really started to show up in significant numbers, and just like that, the threat was over. Meanwhile, Cobra had expanded out to a couple of cities as well, but was now coming under renewed pressure from a Donkey/Philophobic doubleteam. The only reason this was troubling was due to the fact that he had no metals on hand for the moment, so I sent my iron from Sparta up there via our river trade route and that calmed things temporarily. Cobra sent it back to me when he hooked up his own source a little bit later. And WarningU2? He was just building us the Pyramids at this point. For that matter, the Great Prophet points that he generated from Oracle/Stonehenge would produce two Great Prophets, which we used to take both Theology and Philosophy. That was significant, not because we got extra religions (although that didn't hurt), but because techs themselves are worth points (a lot of points) in MP, and Theocracy helped our warmakers a lot too. Pacifism civic - well, I'm getting to that.
After getting Machinery, we did not head immediately onto Feudalism, which would have been the logical next tech. Why not? Time for a quick stop at Code of Laws - and Caste System civic. That was done exclusively for my benefit, so that I could use the food bonuses at Athens to run a ton of Artist specialists and get us some Great Artists, which are extremely useful for MP. Why is that? Three things: 1) Recon - Great Artists push out your borders (very far), allowing you to spot incoming enemy units much earlier, without having to post killable sentries 2) Defense - not only can enemy units not heal within your borders quickly, the city with the Great Artist also gets an 80% defensive bonus just from the culture! 3) Points - all that land is worth a LOT of points, and points really matter in MP! This was the whole reason I had taken a Philosophical civ, so time to put it to good use. Ah, I can support 4 Artist specialists in Athens - that's 24 Great Person points per turn. At that rate, I'll generate one in... 5 turns! Nice! Should have taken a picture of this, but I wasn't thinking about it at the time - oh well. Later, I went to Pacifism and generated the Great People even faster.
Knowing that we had a Great Artist on the way, Vermillion set up a city to secure his southern border with Draca's Rome. Here's the before and after:
I always love those pictures. That extra defense in Guangzhou proved to come in very handy, as Draca sent a large stack of units after that city shortly thereafter, but which were forced to stand around bombing down the defenses with cats for ages. Of course, that gave Vermillion plenty of time to build up his defense and counter with cats and Cho-Ko-Nus. I sent a couple of Horse Archers over to help out, but Vermillion mostly had things under control himself.
Meanwhile, Cobra was demanding Horse Archers and I was more than happy to oblige. At first it was for defense against the other team, but later it was for our own counter-attack. Cobra spotted a weakness in the defenses of Philophobic, as she had founded a city close to Cobra's own front lines but without a great amount of defenses on hand. In fact, there was only an archer, spear, and cat in the city. Now there were a fair number of other units in the area, but... a fast strike in force with Horse Archers looked like it would have a good chance to take it, and gain the instant kill for this game. So WarningU2 and I built a number of Horse Archers, and Cobra built even more, leading to this picture:
This is the setup picture, so let me explain what's going on. The taget is Hamburg, which I have highlighted with the mouse cursor at the moment to show the defenders. We can see what's in Hamburg because Cobra has an archer on a forested hill tile just outside the city (almost out of range at the top of the screen). There's an advance guard of horse archers near the city, but the main force is sitting one tile north of Cordoba. There's about seven or eight horse archers on that tile, plus another two of them one tile east of the city. What they will do is converge on the tile where the current Spanish horse archers are sitting at the end of the next turn, then immediately rush at Hamburg at the start of the following turn, performing a stack attack (this is the dreaded double-move, moving once at the end of one turn and again at the beginning of the following one. It's been toned down for Civ4, but not eliminated entirely.) What's really brilliant here though is the way that Cobra has lured the war elephant that was in Hamburg out of the city with a chariot decoy, leaving that unit in a place where it will obviously be killed to draw out the anti-horse defender. Brilliant, simply brilliant. There's no doubt that I would fall for the same ploy myself.
In any game with 1-city elimination on, you have to be super-careful with your city placements. Philophobia stretched a little too far forward here and made a mistake. That would prove to be costly for the GC team:
Major congratulations on our side were in order for Cobra, for seeing and executing such a decisive move. With this being a No City Razing game, however, Cobra now had to secure the city; although losing the city wouldn't eliminate him, we certainly didn't want to give the other team a base that close to our territory. There were plenty of horse archers on hand to make sure that wouldn't happen right away, and my second Great Artist went up to the north to bomb Hamburg and make certain that it wouldn't fall. Here's the before and after again from that second bomb:
The combination of those culture bombs and Philophobic's demise gave my Illuminati team a commanding points lead in the game. The only way for the GC team to take us out at this point would be to eliminate one of our team members, and they would still have to make up some ground even then. Draca pushed the attack on Vermillion in the east, but his Cho-Ko-Nus and cats proved to be too strong, so we ended up being safe over there. Donkey, however, posed one last threat to Cobra in the northwest:
This boat attack actually nearly succeeded in taking over one of Cobra's backline cities, which would have put us in quite a pickle! Toledo has a ton of units in it NOW, but it didn't at the time that we first saw those boats on the screen (the city was actually empty at that point!) But Cobra shuffled his forces rapidly and whipped out some defenders with Slavery, and we managed to avoid disaster. Whew. It was closer than it looked there.
With our significant points lead and less than 30 turns to go, at this point the GC team then graciously conceded to us. It was a well-played and well-fought game for both sides. I believe that our planning and teamwork (mutual supporting when one team member came under serious assault) as well as division of labor ultimately was responsible for our victory. We were ahead in points even before the kill, and it would have been tough for the GC team to catch us, I think. But you never know what might have happened.
We were set to play another team from the KC group in the final, but they were unable to assemble a full team and had to forfeit. That was a bit of a shame, but it was nice to win an event, even if we only actually played one match! Many thanks to my three partners in this game, Cobra, Vermillion, and WarningU2. Great execution from everyone involved. Just for the curious, here was the final bracket from this event:
Of course, this was only one event of the nine that made up the CCC, and I was slated to play again in Event #8 the following day. Go on to the next page to read about that contest.