Epic Seventeen: Culminating War

I hadn't exactly been sitting on my hands while all that fighting was taking place in the extreme east of my civ. The biggest reason why I had trouble with Alex and Caesar was due to the fact that most of my cities had been tied up on long infrastructure projects. I built more settlers and workers, added the Apostolic Palace and the Heroic Epic in my capital, plus built the Great Library (with help from marble) in my second city of Prague, my highest science location. This made things very tough during the middle centuries of the first milennium, but now that the dates were creeping closer to 1000AD, I was rapidly gaining in strength, especially as I continued to hack more tiles out of the northern jungles.

My capital of Aachen in particular was in full-fledged war mode by 890AD:

I often advocate placing the Heroic Epic in a city other than the capital, and using that location to do nothing but crank units throughout the game. Well here I went with the more conventional route, stacking the Bureaucracy bonus along with the Heroic Epic for rapid unit training. Note however that Aachen only has a single cottage; even with Bureaucracy, this isn't my top commerce city. I intended this to be a production city from the start, and it's certainly living up to that goal.

As I said on the previous page, this is the first time that I've actually built the Apostolic Palace. The extra shields from temples/monasteries are really very noticeable, borderline overpowering in some cases. This certainly helps Spiritual civs a bit, making up for the fact that now it's much easier to swap civics. In Aachen, I was getting a full six shields/turn (two grassland hill tiles!) just from the Hindu buildings, and I would repeat the pattern elsewhere in many cities, even ones that I never intended to build much military.

By 980AD, I felt that I had enough maces and cats/trebs to go on the offensive, so I declared war on Montezuma (the weakest AI civ in the area). It didn't hurt either that Monty was still at war with the Romans. Check out this battle that one of my spies was watching:

Caesar was a little overly heavy on cats, which is why this siege dragged out for a long time. My spy was mostly intended to conduct reconaissance on the black tiles in the fog, rather than perform any espionage missions. I'm really not particularly interested in that side of the gameplay; my spies always seem to get caught almost immediately after they move into enemy territory. And why does the AI governor like those awful Spy specialists so much in cities?

I forgot to take a picture of the world in 1000AD, so I had to snap it the next turn in 1010:

Since the last overview, I've settled Pisa as a space-filler in the southern tundra, and captured Mycenae in the northwest from the barbs. That gives me 16 cities overall - not too shabby on a Standard map! Economically, my position is stable, if not great. I'm confident that I can race to Domination from this point without hitting economic collapse.

In terms of the city builds, I've clearly moved towards a military footing. Four cities are building units at the moment, and several others are working towards that with infrastructure (like Vienna, Cimmerian, Angle, and Ulm). I've gone a little heavier on production cities than usual because this is a Domination game; in a normal game, it's usually about three commerce cities for every production one, while here it's more like two to one. As always, the best use of the terrain is dictated by your overall goals for the game. Civ4 is highly flexible in that regard.

Here's a closer shot of the front:

My soldiers were not impressed by the defenses at Tlatelolco. However, Montezuma immediately went into a whipping frenzy (umm, thanks Blake!) and stacked up a bunch of longbows. With the city on a hill, and sporting city walls, I had no choice but to take down the defenses first to avoid crippling casualties. Tlatelolco actually fell a half-dozen turns later in 1080AD:

And look who I found outside - Caesar's army! Whoa! I knew they were in the area, and would have to be careful to avoid falling short on taking cities, leaving them easy pickings for the Romans. In fact, the Greeks had also entered the war against Monty, so this rapidly became a race between our three civs to see who would pick up the Aztec spoils. Monty's weak, diplomatically isolated civ was on its way out.

I'll also mention here that I turned off Vassal States in this game for this very reason. I just don't like the concept very much, and never have. If they had been on, I might have seen Monty surrender to Caesar or Alex, which would have been a major pain in the neck. As game Sponsor, of course, I just nipped that in the bud before it could even be an issue. There are some benefits to pulling rank! More seriously though, I wanted this to be a game of seeing who could reach Domination first - not a game of "who can induce the AIs to Capitulate the fastest". I hope that makes sense to those who played.

Oh, and incidentally Hannibal declared war on me in 1040AD. He was angry because I had declared (phony) war on him in BC years at the prompting of Alex, hoping to improve relations with the Greeks (Ha! Well that certainly worked. ) Earlier this might have been a problem. Not anymore, as I had plenty of soldiers:

Mainz was once again the battlefield, but now I had some (Protective) longbows/crossbows on hand, plus my unique unit pikeman for their elephants. I wasn't exactly sweating over this one. They suicided on the attack, and that was that.

At Tenochtitlan, I killed most of the defenders, only to see Alex swoop in and grab the city with a bevy of horse archers. Argh! Well, I make mistakes too sometimes. Anyway, here was the situation in the north:

That gives you a good view of Alex's horse-heavy stack, as well as the remnants of the Aztec civ. A single turn later, it was over for Monty:

I have my new Great General Medic highlighted in the shot as well, renamed to Leonidas in honor of the first Medic III chariot (who died earlier, defending in a stack when he wasn't supposed to defend!) I've also now managed to trade for a world map with Mansa Musa. Ahh, Mansa. Even shafted on land in this game, he still managed to make himself the tech leader, and I was able to swing some nice deals with him. Does he have the "winner" AI personality or what?

I'll also mention that I was in a Golden Age here, triggered by my second Great Prophet. I only fired the thing off because I wanted to swap civics to Mercantilism without going through two turns of anarchy, but it turned out to be a highly useful one. In the Golden Age, Aachen was able to build one-turn knights!

Each turn I was getting slightly more overrun than the next, actually increasing the shield output of the city. That meant that I got 10 knights just from the Golden Age, and ended up with enough overflow to continue with a knight per turn for another four or five turns after it finished. With each knight coming out at 11XP - that made a BIG difference! The GA helped many other cities produce units as well, not to mention assisting my sagging finances as I continued to absorb more cities. It was possibly the most useful Golden Age I've ever had in Civ4!

"Absorb more cities? I thought the Aztecs were finished?" True enough, but the wars were just beginning:

I took two turns to reposition my forces, then jumped all over Caesar, the next target in line. I managed to catch some of his units returning from the Aztec front, where they were easy pickings. The former Aztec city of Calix was right on the border, and easily steamrolled by the force in the screenshot above. From there I drove my knights deep into Roman territory, pillaging at will and clearing a path for the trailing siege engines.

Caesar wasn't a total sitting duck, as Monty had been. He sent this counter-attacking force out after me:

The AI actually did a pretty good job here; Mainz and Gaul were the weak spots in my defenses, and the pike-heavy force did a good job of matching up with my knight concentration. However, by this point I just had too many units to worry about something like this. I shifted some of the new reinforcements coming up from the back lines down here to the south, and took them down with a combination of knights/longbows/crossbows/pikes. I took losses, but I could afford them. Caesar couldn't.

At Cumae, the Romans only had three units defending, failing to react swiftly enough to my knight charge. I had a half-dozen mounted units on hand, time to attack!

I lost several knights, but took the city. In similar fashion to Epic Fourteen, I found that the AI doesn't react well to speed. Blake's AI performs very strongly in a siege situation, whipping additional units like you wouldn't believe. However, if you can blitz through the AI before it has time to react, the cities can go down quite easily. Obviously that's easier said than done! Still, it's something worth thinking about. Two-move units can be vastly superior to one-move units in this regard.

By 1250AD, I had taken Rome and the rout was on:

I guarantee at least one player will write that I put that iron by Rome. The map generator did it with no influence from me, honest!

Antium came stocked with a shrine and other goodies:

Probably too late in the game for these to matter much. Nice prizes nonetheless!

From Antium, it took a single turn to gallop south to Neapolis and finish off the Romans:

Caesar truly had been a worthy foe, I just had way too many cities building units for him to stop me. If you set every city to building knights, you'd be surprised how effective than can be sometimes! Once you've got more cities than the rest of the world combined, it's pretty much game over for the AIs no matter what you do...

Let me show you the large map from 1275AD to illustrate my next move:

Obviously I'm not going to stop here; I may as well keep attacking until I reach Domination, and Alex is the next target in line. I originally planned to wait a single turn and then declare war in 1280. However, look at the area around Antium, where I have two rows of tiles circled in yellow. There are currently no cultural borders in that area, during the short grace period after a city is captured. That has allowed even my slow-moving siege units to move right up next to Sparta. If I wait until next turn to declare war, however, Alex's borders will expand outward from Sparta, and my units will be teleported back to Antium. (If you declare war with units in enemy territory, they get moved back to your own lands - no ROP rape in Civ4!)

This essentially meant that I had to declare war on Alex right here and now, in 1275AD! Anything else would delay my units and push back the front. So even though it was still the same turn that I finished off Caesar, I declared war on Greece and proceeded to grab Sparta.

Alex had two different cities in the northwest, both of them former Aztec captures. In fact, I had dismantled the Romans so quickly, his Aztec army was still slowly making its way back towards Greek territory. They were on the blue tile circled above; let me give you a closer screenshot:

This was no trivial force! I easily grabbed Tenochtitlan (defended by a single unit), and proceeded to move after Texcoco, but this stack had me a trifle worried. If it went after Cumae, or sought to reinforce Texcoco, it would make my life a lot tougher. What I did do was to plant a pikeman on the jungle tile leading into my territory. Alex took the bait and went after my unit; he killed the pike, at the expense of four of his units. I proceeded to capture Texcoco on the next turn (1280) and then wore down the stack with repeated attacks from pikes and knights. Alex failed to move decisively at any one city, allowing me to whittle it down and remove the threat (with losses). Managing the logistics here was definitely tricky, with half my army in the south on the front lines, and another force needed in the north to take out Alex's isolated colonies.

In the first four turns of the war I overran five different Greek cities. By 1295AD, Greece was in a state of collapse:

I had several cities due to come out of revolts on the following turn, but still sat at only a little over 60% on the land tally. Would I be able to leap over the hump, and reach Domination on the nice round date of 1300?