Epic Three: The Age of the Quill

I killed Louis in 1418AD. If you've been watching the research choices in the past couple screenshots, however, you'll note that I had gone down the bottom of the tree and picked up both Compass and Optics on my way to Guilds and Banking. On an archipelago map like this, I wanted to get some caravels into the water and find the other AI civs before they found me. In an amazing conincidence, I found another continent out there in the fog on the very turn following my destruction of France:

Hello Hatty. I signed Open Borders with her but held off on trading anything else until I could meet the final AI civ. And then in an even further stroke of strange luck, my caravel moved one tile further and found FDR as well!

What are the odds that I would find both of the two remaining AI civs on the same turn, on the other side of the world, a turn after destroying Louis?!

As a result, neither one of these AIs would ever even know about what I had done to France, and so I could start fresh with new relations with both of them. They're both going to have to be conquered in the end though, so don't get too attached to them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was even in tech with both Hatty and FDR despite the humongous amount of territory that I had amassed. Even though I was currently losing money at 40% science, I was still running even with them in research. Amazing stuff. Once I get these maintenance costs under control - look out. I signed Open Borders with both of them, since it would give me a relations boost and have absolutely zero effect otherwise. Trade routes don't reach out across the ocean until Astronomy, remember.

One trade I did make was to send Guilds to Hatty for Monotheism + Philosophy once I discovered it two turns later. FDR already had it, so that was a very good deal for me. I knew that I would want Theology for Theocracy civic later on, and Monotheism was a prerequisite for that, while Philosophy would clear the way to Liberalism. After exchanging those techs in 1436AD, FDR had Banking and aside from that we were all in exactly the same spot on the tree.

With only 10 turns remaining before the 1500AD date arrived, I spent the turns following the end of the French war configuring all my cities for max growth, desperately trying to squeeze out some additional growths before the turn arrived. I held off on adopting Mercantilism so I wouldn't have to wait in Anarchy and lose those two turns. Whipping was naturally absolutely forbidden during these years, and I had in fact not whipped anything since about 1300AD. I did generate my first Great Scientist (still only my second one overall) in 1466AD, which I used for an academy in the capital. Better late than never, I suppose. And I also had the good fortune to pop a gold resource from one of my mines in 1484, which was significant because it was a resource that I lacked. No gold at all on the starting continent, and I obtained one due to dumb luck. That was a minor boost at this stage of the game, but still nice.

So finally the day had arrived, and here's what things looked like in 1502AD:

In the end, I was not able to fulfill my goal of settling the entire continent by the 1500AD date. The northwest corner still has room for about 4 more cities, but I decided about 1400AD that I needed to stop producing more settlers for the time being and grow my cities instead. I'm confident that that got me more population than if I had popped out a couple more settlers at the end. I think I did a pretty good job of covering the continent with cities; there are some wasted tiles and bad spacing around Big City, but that was necessary due to the specific tile where that unique city had to be placed. Some of Louis' cities were also less than ideal, but overall they were pretty good and I definitely didn't have time to burn then down and replace them with my own. From the proliferation of courthouses and grocers, you can see that I am in the middle of an infrastructure kick, researching towards Education and Liberalism.

Now, as for the actual Demographics count:

My score came out to be just a little over 17 million. Now all those cities on the map look very impressive, but I'm not at all sure if this is very good or not. When I compared the number to my population at the same date in Adventure Four, I found that I was at some 21 million population at the same year, largely due to the fact that I had two size 20 cities already in that game. Now maybe I'm making a bad comparison here, since that game was played on 1.52 with brokenly-cheap Slavery civic, and it had just about the best starting position I've ever seen, but if I can do that well on a Standard-sized map, I'm sure that this number will be easily beatable by others here in this game. See, the further up the tech tree you get, the larger the cities you can have. You gain access to more resources at earlier dates, can build more stuff in your cities that increases the happy/health limits, you can open up resource trades across the ocean... etc. I think that someone who takes Civil Service with the Oracle and then puts an early Academy in the capital may very well be able to blow right by my research effort in this game, getting further down the tech tree at an earlier date and therefore having larger cities. Fewer, larger cities may have been the way to go here. I'm hoping that I will get something in this particular category, but am not particularly optimistic. I don't think it would have been too hard for 5 people to beat this score. A later Hanging Gardens, geared towards THIS date instead of the 1AD one, could also have done some interesting stuff. We'll see what others came up with.

Now that the population marks were set, I no longer had any need to care about my population. That's right - my people were now totally irrelevant (aside from the special case of Big City), and the only thing that mattered was conquering the world as fast as possible. By the way, no one could possibly win before 1500AD, so there's no need to be worried about that. I was wondering about that when I saw the scoring page, but the huge continent way over on the other side of the world really makes it doubtful it could be pulled off. Anyway, I revolted to Mercantilism on the following turn and carried out some whippings that had been put off for awhile. The Incans had been slacking off a bit in production, so it was time to let them know that there was more to do than sit around making babies.

I tied this important bonus down a couple turns later:

Maybe this is irrelevant if you're going for Culture or Diplomacy, but if you're heading for Conquest, this is vital for speeding up the finish date. You can only move as fast as your ships can take you! Once I had secured the circumnavigation bonus, I traded for the AI world maps (since I already had Paper). An investigation of their island revealed that it was long and very narrow, with every single city (except one Egyptian loner) sitting on the coast. All coastal cities, hmm... That will open up a number of possibilities for conquest. I'll get into my particular plans in that regard a bit later.

Big City went through its final whipping of the entire game a couple turns later:

Naturally Big City needs to have Globe Theatre in it; hopefully everyone was able to realize that. With happiness out of the way, all I would have to do is get this city enough health to allow it to reach its potential. With every tile irrigated and the mine windmilled, the city would end up with 73 food post-Biology. I was hoping I could get a Great Merchant and increase that to 74, for an even size 37 (assuming I could scrounge up 37 health points!) I of course also had National Epic in here as well; this city will be running a million specialists, so might as well get as much value from that as possible.

As far as the location of Big City, I'll be curious to see where each person put it. You actually do NOT want the city to be on the coast, as each water tile only produces 2 food and can never be increased beyond that. Don't let water resources fool you in that regard. The best possible spot for the city is in a flatland region of all grassland tiles, with few/no hills. Hills also can never get past 2 food. Peaks and desert are very bad and to be avoided at all costs. Even better would be all floodplains, but since they tend to come with desert tiles too, you have to select a site carefully. This was the best location I could find that had both a ton of food potential AND was close enough to the capital to start growing at a reasonable date. Now the only things the city needed were health to keep growing and enough time to get to a high enough size.

This was a peaceful time for my Incans, and in terms of diplomacy it was truly the Age of the Quill. Once it became clear that I would not be beaten to Liberalism, I sold Paper to Hatty and FDR for cash, picking up the outdated Horseback Riding and Music in the process (just in case I need to build cavs). With four caravels out on the oceans exploring the fog, I was actually selling my world map every couple turns to the AI civs for change, Civ3-style. It was the only way I could stay at 50% research! Now I planned to take Astronomy from Liberalism, since I needed a way to cross the ocean, but both FDR and Hatty went there before I reached the free tech. Using the freebie on a non-monopoly tech that I could trade for would be silly, so when I was one turn away from Liberalism, I stopped research on it and grabbed Gunpowder instead (which took 5 turns). Then I went back for Liberalism and picked up a different tech in 1580AD:

Chemistry grab! Bet you don't see that too often! I was going to need cannon to do this conquest at the very least, so I was going to head to Steel anyway. And I was not afraid to give out this tech to the AIs, since they rarely do much of anything with grenadiers. I most definitely did NOT want them going anywhere near Rifling - the longer I can delay them getting that tech, the better! So here's what I did: Education @2nd + Chemistry @monopoly to Hatty for Astronomy. What a ripoff you say? Far from it - Hatty may have gotten the edge in beakers, but I saved myself a good 8 turns of research on the expensive Astronomy tech. Now I could start building galleons and frigates in my coastal cities, both of which I would need in large numbers for the upcoming turns ahead. Speed was more important than getting a good deal here.

The completion of a bank and grocer in Cuzco, where I had my Buddhist shrine, improved my finances markedly. If you look at the screenshot above, you can see I'm now running a huge surplus at 50% science. And just a couple turns later, my Forbidden Palace completed in Vitcos, cutting my maintenance costs further:

Look at those figures! WELL into the green at 60% science. And when I completed Printing Press on the following turn, I was able to fuel 70% science at a sustainable deficit. Just amazing. In 1484AD I was reduced to 30% science temporarily, and by 1600 I was up to 70%. What a difference a century of building banks can achieve - I think that things were beginning to look up here.

After getting Chemistry from Liberalism, and trading for Astronomy with Hatty, I had first researched Printing Press to improve my finances just a little bit more. (I also canceled Open Borders with the AI civs once I got Astronomy just to make sure they won't benefit from my trade routes - ha!) After Printing Press, it was on to Steel so that my cities that had decent production could begin building cannon. From there I would go up the Rifling line of the tree, grabbing Replaceable Parts and Rifling. There were still a couple of techs that the AIs had which I was missing, so I swung this extremely helpful deal in 1610AD:

Both Hatty and FDR already have Nationalism and Theology, so this is those two techs @2nd to me for Chemistry @2nd and Liberalism @monopoly. Again it looks like I'm being ripped off - but far from it. Hatty's only going to trade FDR Chemistry anyway, and if it leads him to researching Steel soon, all the better. (Stay away from Rifling!) Liberalism is an almost useless tech once the freebie has been taken; what's he going to do, hurt me with Free Speech or Free Religion?! I think not. In return, I get two enormously important techs that open up the Nationhood and Theocracy civics. I immediately revolted to both of them (3 turns of anarchy, ouch!) Nationhood civic was good in and of itself, as it gave me happy faces in cities with barracks and came at NO upkeep. That's a big boost for a huge civ like mine. Theocracy civic is pretty self-explanatory, of course. Once I came out of anarchy, the only thing to be done was beeline to Rifling tech as fast as possible while building certain units: galleons and frigates in coastal cities, cannon in landlocked ones.

By the way, one thing I'm most definitely NOT going to do is trade Printing Press for Economics, or for anything else. One of the things you have to learn in these strategy games is when it's to your advantage to trade techs, and when it's not. This is a classic case of what Sirian calls "protecting a tech lead"; that is, the best possible thing for me to do at this point is to delay the AIs from acquiring Rifling as long as possible and getting their cheap upgrades. As part of that, I most definitely don't want to trade away Printing Press or Replaceable Parts, even for a favorable deal. Knowing when to pull the trigger (as I was just doing earlier) and when not to is all part of the strategy of these games.

Well, I finally got to Rifling tech in 1664AD. Time to start drafting - rifles all around for everyone!

There's a shot of the capital, as Cuzco has the honor of being drafted first among all my cities. Here on a Large map, you can draft 4 cities per turn each turn, so you can raise an army pretty darn fast if need be. The only requirement is that each city be at least size 6, and be composed of your own nationals. Well, that and people do get upset about the draft, but I could have cared less about that. "Hell no, we won't go!" Guess what - you ARE going, and that's final! Cry about it some other time.

I discover Rifling in 1664, and four turns later in 1676 I already have 20 rifles on hand:

Those are in addition to the 10 cannon and 8 grenadiers, many of whom have been upgraded from my old cats and maces. Also of critical importance are the 11 galleons and 13 frigates which have been concentrating off the coast of Cuzco, but which are now sailing off to the east under mysterious secret instructions. Large numbers of Incan soldiers are spotted boarding ships under cover of darkness, their destination unknown.

Can you feel it? The Age of the Quill is drawing to a close. The Age of the Rifle is upon us.