All I needed to do in order to win by Domination was eliminate Gandhi and take over all his cities. I now had enough economic strength to avoid going bankrupt in the process, so I waited until I had enough jumbos and cats on hand to take out India in one fell swoop. I felt that I had reached that point in 860AD, and declared war:
I only had three elephants ready to go initially, but there were more reinforcements on the way. With five cats and a whole lot of elite Jags on hand, I was quite confident that I could get started. The first target was the border city of Calcutta, from where I would head north and take out the capital of Delhi. That would split India in half, allowing me to pick off Bangalore and then proceed west at my leisure to grab the last two cities. Unlike the last war, this is not intended to be a limited struggle but a battle to the death. If I have to kill my economy in the process, so be it. Once I get to 70% land, this game will be history!
Note also that Gandhi hadn't hooked up his horses at Calcutta. Is he really THAT much of a pacifist?! (More likely he was slowed by my capture of several workers in the last war, heh). The catapults dropped most of the defenses on the first turn, and so I sent in the troops:
I don't care how many bonuses the defending unit gets, strength 8 elephants versus strength 3 archers is a bad mismatch. Three Indian archers died and Calcutta was captured in 875AD, at the cost of one elephant. The injured units stopped to heal up, but most of my units were still in relatively good shape, so they began the trek up to Delhi, meeting up with further reinforcements along the way.
Technologically, once I finished cleaning up Poly/Monotheism, I used my second Great Prophet from London to take Theology tech. Gandhi had already founded Christianity (his FOURTH religion of the game, sheesh) but I was more interested in Theocracy civic for my soldiers. Sadly, most of the game was already over before I could start producing 6XP units out of the gate, but I did get some double-promoted elephants out of it. (It's not like there was a whole lot else to do with the Great Prophet anyway.) After grabbing Theology, it was on to Drama next to enable the culture slider. War weariness would be a pain as always, and it wouldn't hurt to run some culture to get borders to expand faster either.
At Delhi, I used one suicide cat once the defenses were down to soften things up, then a Combat II elephant took out the top defender (the only one with promotions) and the battle turned into a rout. The suicide cat was the only unit that I lost:
Once Delhi comes out of resistance, I will finally get native control over those wines that I've been trading for over the course of the last thousand years. Thanks for letting me use the extra one for so long, Gandhi! I hope the pigs you got in return were worth it.
Due to the fact that my units were technologically superior to Gandhi's forces (almost entirely composed of archers), I enjoyed very few combat losses. The older units that I did have (such as my Jags) were highly promoted, and so were unlikely to lose as well. I did have a small run of bad luck at Bangalore, where a war elephant lost at 66% odds and failed to do a single point of damage to the defender. I would never complain over losing a battle at odds as low as 2/3, but the failure to do any damage to the top defender ending up delaying my capture of the city for a turn. Thankfully, the dice broke against me here where it was irrelevant rather than outside London earlier, where it would have killed my whole game! That's why you usually see me avoid risky attacks early in the game. I had to try one here because I was desperate and couldn't see another option.
Here is the status of the India campaign just after crossing the 1000AD mark:
Just Bombay and Madras to go, and the jumbos are already on their way heading to the west. There's also a fur resource up there, although it will come too late to have any impact on the game. You can see that I've turned off research, as I don't expect to get any more techs before hitting Domination. 20% culture deals with the war weariness, and it should also push out my borders too, getting me over the limit faster. Good stuff all around.
At Bombay in 1085AD, my City Raider II cat not only deals good collateral damage, but actually kills the top defender! (the odds were about 60%) From there the rest of my units mopped up the weak and injured defenders. One more city to go!
Unfortunately, Gandhi got Feudalism in 1112AD and his archers magically became longbows in a flash. Alex had been running around with Feudalism for the last dozen turns, so I knew this was only a matter of time. I had made the most of my narrow window of opportunity - looks like I attacked at the right time! Wading through a civ full of longbows would be unpleasant, but with only one city left... yeah, this won't really present much of a problem at all. Two turns to bomb down the defenses, and the battle of Madras was on:'
Gandhi had two longbows, two spears, and a catapult to deal with my stack. In another example of strange AI programming, the cat never attacked to do collateral damage to my units (must have had the wrong AI task assigned to it). Got some highly promoted Jags there, don't I? Two suicide cats did their job, and then the elites rolled in:
Does anyone else want to say that the Jag is a horrible unique unit? Yeah, I didn't think so.
Game over for Gandhi.
As soon as India was destroyed, all of my war weariness magically disappeared overnight. I continued to run 40% culture, however, in order to get my borders to expand. I also revolted to Caste System and hired Artist specialists everywhere that had the potential to get a border expansion in under 5 turns, even driving cities into starvation to do so. You'd be amazed how fast you can produce culture under those circumstances; Delhi actually managed to reach 150 culture in less than ten turns. I also sent several of the units from the India campaign down to take the barb city of Cimmerian, and founded a junk city to the west of London to grab some additional tiles. The game's over, let's put this puppy to bed.
I saw on the 1154AD turn that I was going to get three different border expansions the following turn, which would surely put me over 70%. Therefore I saved the game and took one last screenshot of my empire:
The Aztec conquests in all their glory. I'm actually going to win even before the city of Madras comes out of resistance - ha! I'm not going to toe my way over the line, I'm going to destroy it here. (I had over 73% of the territory after those expansions.) I have no idea what Alex is doing with his recent city foundings; Knossus is a horrendous spot, which would have flipped to me if the game had gone on much longer. Pharsolus had iron but not much else; it too was getting culturally squeezed at the end of the game and would have fallen in time as well. All told I got basically everything outside of Greece's little starting peninsula. I even had much of the jungle cut down, with cottages left and right. Of course it helps when you capture as many workers as I did in this game...
By the way, one last oddity to report. Notice I boxed in the plantation on the bananas in the bottom right corner. Gandhi had built a planatation on the tile right before I captured Lahore away from him, and even though I did not have Calendar tech, I was still able to make use of the resource. I suppose that's kind of in the nature of a rules loophole for this game, but I can't see anyone being able to plan a strategy around it. Maybe someone will manage to capture some Calendar happiness resources from the AI and get some help there (?)
OK, enough pontificating. Domination Victory in 1160AD:
By far the earliest victory I've ever managed to achieve outside of Multiplayer, but of course this was a Tiny map. (First time I've ever played a Tiny map, actually.) Of course, the early finish scored a ton of points for my personal Hall of Fame, over 100,000 - as if that means anything. Given the variant and the tough start, this was far from a cakewalk. It was a short game, but extremely intense. Emperor difficulty is serious business in this game! (Oh, I also got that bananas plantation in the above shot, hehe.)
Some replay pictures:
Here are the starting positions on the pangaea. From here it doesn't look like the player had such a bad location, but anyone who played this game will know what a struggle it turned out to be. I think Gandhi had the best start of the AI civs; Liz had a pretty good spot, but it lacked somewhat in production. If Gandhi builds Stonehenge in some of the other games, he seems likely to become the runaway AI civ (no Creative civs in this game, so whoever gets that wonder is going to have a huge edge). In this game, Lizzie took both of the early wonders and looked set to run away with things until I decapitated her by capturing London. I'm going to be interested to see how she develops in games where she's left alone. In fact, Gandhi and Elizabeth were buddy-buddy even in my game, where they didn't have much time to spend together. I can only imagine what things will be like in a less disruptive game, once they start sending resources back and forth (at least No Tech Trading will curtail them somewhat). As for Alex, he had some good land over there, but the geography does not favor him. I'm sure that Alex will declare on Gandhi eventually in some of these games. How the player chooses to respond to that will be interesting indeed.
The turning point of the game, as my Jags take London. The AI civs were way out in front of me by this time, not only having more cities, but larger and more developed ones as well. With most of the map occupied by this early date, I'm not sure where I would have gone next if I had tried to play this peacefully. Interesting question: will anyone have success going the peaceful route in this game? There was stone relatively close by, so perhaps something could be done with the Pyramids. Without being able to use the sea for commerce, however, that looks like an uphill battle. I'll be mighty impressed if someone can build their way out of this start while following the variant rules!
The much-maligned Jaguar Warrior was the MVP of this game. I'm not sure I can remember another situation where a civ's unique unit literally won the game for me. Granted, there was iron at the starting position, so technically I could have build swordsmen with a different civ, but there was no way to KNOW that and base a gameplan around it. Because I was the Aztecs, I knew that I could beeline to Iron Working, start whipping/chopping some Jags, and have a legitimate chance to do some damage. As Melee units for an Aggressive civ, they are at least as strong as swords for non-Aggressive civs, strength 5 vs. strength 6 notwithstanding. Perhaps even more importantly, I didn't have to wait for my iron to be connected (which took 6 turns to mine) to start then; just straight onto Jags the turn that Iron Working comes in, then whip away. Those turns may well have been the difference in the game, because if London has 4 defenders instead of 3, the odds to capture it would have fallen drastically. It's all about speed with the Jags - you don't need metals, you don't even have to connect the ones you do have, just GO and get out there on the attack. I wish people would stop complaining about the Jags, as they are indeed very powerful when leveraged properly. They are also, hands down, the coolest-looking unit in the entire game. I still remember the day the artwork for the Jag came down and overrode the placeholder art. A tough unit, and tough-looking too, for my money's worth.
At the crossover into the AD years, I have a total of six cities: the two Aztec ones that I actually founded, three captured English cities, and a captured barb city. Gandhi has planted two cities almost inside my borders to get him up to seven, while Alex has filled up his peninsula with five. In addition to announcing my destruction of England, the replay has a number of other important information displayed. For one thing, I figured out why Alex was doing so well economically: he had built the Great Lighthouse in 505BC. With all his cities being coastal, he must have been pulling in mucho income from his Open Borders with me. Whoops. Might have canceled them if I had known that at the time! You can also see Gandhi building the Pyramids (and swapping to his favorite civic, Universal Suffrage) as well as the birth of my first Great Prophet in London. Looks like Alex got a Merchant from the Great Lighthouse too - wonder what he did with it (?)
Oh, and Gandhi didn't adopt Slavery until the ridiculously late date of 550BC, which means that he still didn't have Bronze Working until then! What was he researching all that time?!
By 600AD, I had stripped Gandhi of his two insecure colonies and pushed him back into his core, leaving the bulk of the continent under the pale green colors of Azteca. Alex was attempting to settle outside of the box that he was in, but there simply wasn't much land available for him to take. His city that you can see over by London was a sorry spot indeed. (It did have iron, and when I checked the Worldbuilder after the game was over, apparently it had oil too. Guess that explains it...) Just building up for the final push here.
The final map. Alex is still holding out there in his core, but it's clear that with 75% of the map and 75% of the population, the game is over. I'm glad that we have a Domination victory condition in Civ4 to spare the tedius mop-up work of going after Alexander. According to the Worldbuilder, he had a full dozen more techs than I did at game's end, but nothing that would have translated into a military advantage. Even a warmonger like Alex favors the peaceful techs on the tree a little too much, I think.
The statistics screen had a couple of bizarre features. For one thing, it was surprising to see that I killed such a disproportionate number of archers. The AI civs clearly should try to build some more different types of units than just the best defender (they definitely should build more axes for defense). The AIs also love to build catapults, but most of the warring was done before Construction tech was discovered; even so, cats crack the #2 spot. I was also stunned by just how many workers I managed to capture in this game: I built 5 workers and captured 10 of them! Five Fast Workers, three regular workers, and two settlers (which became workers on capture). 10 workers might not sound like that many, but remember this was a Tiny map, where I achieved a Domination with only 13 cities. I'm sure that grabbing all those workers, most of them at early dates too, helped me out enormously.
I also had extremely light casulties. I only lost 12 units the whole game! That's including the scout I had eaten by a barb lion and several suicide cats. Again, it was a Tiny map - but still. I didn't even have particularly great luck on the combat rolls, just average. I guess that attacking archers instead of longbows (as I often have to do) made a big difference there as well. Also notice I managed to kill some galleys and a work boat (which were inside Indian cities when I captured them). Never thought I'd see that in this game!
I felt as though this was the hardest game of Civ4 that I've played so far. The weak capital, the weaker land surrounding it, the variant rules, the Emperor AIs... This will be a tough one for our community. With that said, I'm really looking forward to seeing how everyone plays the starts. Are others going to go the Jag route as I did? Maybe they will do something with that copper way over there by the west. For those who go the aggressive route, will they target Gandhi instead of Liz first? I wonder if that will prove to be a stronger choice. I think that trying to build your way out of this starting position is a forelorn hope (that stone resource is almost a red herring!), but maybe someone will be able to do it. I'd love to see someone pull it off!
Now there's no scoring for this Epic, and rightly so (winning under any conditions will be reward enough), but... I can't help wondering about finish dates. I have an 1160AD finish, but I think that's eminently beatable, perhaps by a significant margin. Pre-1000AD should be readily doable. If anyone does, I look forward to hearing about it! Hope you enjoyed reading this report.
Victor in the iceball of Adventure Two, Montezuma triumphs again. Just look at that face - you do not want to mess with this guy!