Right around the 1000AD mark, I generated another Great Person out of Thebes - my fourth Great Prophet of the game. (Geez, what do I have to do to get a Great Scientist for an Academy?!) Nevertheless, in this particular game I actually had plenty of uses for extra Prophets, and so he went to Elephantine to build the Confucian shrine. Here's what that looked like:
Even though I had made no effort to spread Confucianism myself, the religion had quite a following, especially among the civs on the western side of the map. (That made sense, because there were literally no religions founded in the entire western hemisphere.) FDR even had Confucianism as his state religion, and I was VERY happy to see it! You see, I could have converted Roosevelt to Hinduism with a flood of Hindu missionaries, but I actually didn't want to do that, because then his relations would improve with all of my allies. I WANT them all to hate the Americans due to religious bigotry - that makes it more likely they'll vote for me! Knowing who my opponent would be in the UN vote long ahead of time was a huge advantage, allowing me to plan accordingly centuries before I reached the Modern Age. I hope FDR sticks with Confucianism for a good, long time (and gets me a little extra change in the process).
Even as I ran the world's largest empire at 80% science - at a profit, ha! - I received shocking new infomation: Tokugawa had adopted Hinduism too!
You have to look at the score box on the right side to see it; just LOOK at all those Hindu icons! I haven't seen anything like that since Sirian's Adventure Three game and Kylearan's No Military game. Here's a compilation shot showing how I reached that point:
Mao was the first civ to adopt Hinduism in the early years, swapping around 500BC. I find that amusing because Mao is the leader who cares the LEAST about religion in the whole game, and here he was as the founding member of the Hindu coalition! Lizzie spent much of the early game in Buddhism (which is why I canceled deals with her at one point), but Hinduism spread to more of her cities and she swapped over of her own accord as well. Mansa I converted through the use of missionaries just after 100AD. Then I converted around 500AD, followed by a long period of inactivity, and Caesar and Toku limped in after 1000AD. I sent a lot of missionaries to Rome, but Toku converted on his own (it's not like I could even get Open Borders with Japan!) So there you go, that's how the coalition was formed over time. (This screenshot took more time to put together than ten normal screenshots combined!)
The game's over now, right? With all these religious compatriots, I'll walk to an easy Diplomatic victory. Heh, if only it were that simple! Let's look at each of them individually. Mansa likes me a lot, but we have significant border tension - and Mao (of all people) is actually his "worst enemy" right now. Lizzie's favorite civic is Free Religion, so she will NOT be staying with Hinduism for the whole game, and if FDR goes to Free Religion too later in the game, Liz will start piling up shared civic bonuses with him, ack! Caesar self-founded Taoism, so he's a constant threat to go back to his own religion once he spreads it around a bit. Mao is only "Cautious" with me, and get this - he's "Friendly" with Toku, and angry at me for declaring war on Toku! Can you believe that?! Not to mention that Mao still dislikes Liz, and is angry at me for trading with her. And Toku - he still won't sign Open Borders, and has a big fat -3 relations penalty for "you declared war on us!" Umm, whoops - sorry about that.
If only it WERE simple! I might be referring to this group as a Hindu bloc, but in reality it was nothing more than a fractious collection of AIs looking out for their own interests. Many of my allies actually detest each other! I've got centuries of wading through labyrinthine diplomacy ahead of me if I'm going to pull this off. Don't try this sort of thing unless you know the diplomatic engine of this game inside and out!
Anyway, if I can refer all the way back up to the last full screenshot, notice that I was only a couple of turns away from completing the Hanging Gardens. The AIs inexplicably ignored this wonder (as they sometimes do), and so I finished it myself in 1118AD for another minor boost. More people is never a bad thing. I finish Education in 1166AD and begin researching Nationalism, hoping to drive deeper into the tree for my Liberalism free tech. Constitution might be a good one to take, for example. The same year, Thucydides wins the award for Mr. Obvious:
Most cultured civ? I'd certainly hope so!
Remember what I was saying above about how my "allies" weren't really formally tied to me in anything but name just yet? Well, I got a rude reminder of just how tenuous those shared bonds actually were when Mao up and declared war on me in 1190AD:
Yikes! This was not part of the plan! Someone get on the phone to China and tell Mao he's supposed to be my friend. Nevertheless, this isn't as bad as it looks. If I can defend myself here, I can overlook Mao's aggression and pretend this war never happened. Yes, relations penalties add up when *YOU* declare war on the AI, but not when *THEY* declare war on you. That sounds illogical, but it actually makes sense if you think about it (the relations are simply a way of telling you how the AI feels about you, not vice versa). I just have to fend off the Chinese with my feeble army til Mao is ready for peace.
So what mighty army is headed my way, pray tell?
Yeah, I think I can handle that.
Also in the news - 1190AD was a busy year! - Antium finally flips to me!
About time! The city sat there at 0% culture every single turn from 425AD to 1190AD. I don't know quite how many turns that was, but it has to be at least 50 (this is Epic speed, remember). That's just crazy; logic would dictate that this city should have flipped MUCH earlier. It was at 100% Egyptian culture! What more did I have to do to get the flip?! Fortunately, the city did fall eventually. All Toku had to do to prevent the flip was spread some culture in there - but being Toku, of course he did no such thing.
The Hanging Gardens in Thebes improbably generated a Great Engineer at less than 5% odds. That was cool - but I still needed a Great Scientist for an Academy! (You know what they say about life - we never get what we most want!) Still, this was a great stroke of luck. I took Archimedes and used him to rush Angkor Wat - in ICE FLIPPER!
Even more culture there, woohoo! Can you tell I was enjoying this game just a wee bit?
After I killed the chariot/catapult combo from Mao, I didn't see any more attacks out of him. I think his heart wasn't really in the war... I didn't really have to divert much effort into the war, therefore, but I did keep a close eye on my southern border while it was taking place. Since I had Hinduism in all of Mao's cities, it wasn't hard to keep tabs on him. While I was doing a routine check of Mao's territory, I spied this bizarre action taking place in the south:
Bulldozing a mature cottage in order to build a workshop... umm, yeah. My notes just read "Sal's worker = moron."
Another Great Person popped from Thebes a bit later (they were rolling out fast with all those wonders, plus Pacifism/National Epic), and sure enough, it was yet another Great Prophet! OK, let's build the JEWISH Shrine this time!
At this rate, I'm NEVER going to get a Great Scientist for an Academy! On the plus side, with all these shrines in play, I was up to 90% research in short order. (Note the 6 culture theatre. Creative civs can get them up early for double culture too!)
OK, Mao finally agrees to call off our phony war a little later, and he was even willing to throw in some reparations for the damages:
It's ok, big guy, we still love you! Just don't do it again, ok? If you want to fight someone, how about you try mixing it up with Saladin instead...
Ice Flipper expanded its borders yet again in 1286AD, this time reaching the 750 culture mark and level 4 reach:
Unfortunately, look at the percentage of Malinese culture in Sakae: it's up to 19%. This city will never flip to me now. It sat at 0% culture for 41 turns, but I never even got so much as a revolt. Now why is that? Let me take a moment to talk a bit about the problems with culture flipping. First I need to illustrate things with another screenshot from debug mode:
Here's a picture of Antium I took after the game ended, using my 1010AD save. Antium DID eventually flip to me, but it sat on 0% culture for ages on end without revolting. Why was that? Look at the odds for a revolt: at the absolute minimum amount of native culture (0% Japanese, 100% Egyptian) I only have a little over a 5% chance for a revolt. That's it. And that would decrease even further if there were more than two defenders on garrison duty. These odds look WAY too low to me, since the cultural aggressor literally cannot do anything more to increase their culture here. And as we saw with Mali's city of Sakae, all the cultural defender has to do is add ONE culture/turn, and the odds for the flip bottom out and disappear. OR the defender just has to add some more units in the city, and the flip chances can be completely suppressed regardless of the cultural situation. So to summarize:
1) The flip odds at 0% culture are too low to begin with (and the cultural aggressor can do nothing to increase them further).
2) The odds drop too quickly when ANY culture is added to the defending city in question. Even 1 culture/turn usually rules out a flip.
3) The defender can mass units in the city without limit, completely nullifying the odds of a flip.
Together, these factors virtually rule out a flip. Oh, don't get me wrong - if you turn up culture to 100% in the late game and spam cottages, you'll get some flips (see Ruff_Hi's Always Peace domination game for an example, or the SG at CivFanatics that had the same goal). But that can only be considered a variant situation outside the realm of normal play. If I were to suggest changes, I would drastically decrease the effect of garrisons on flip suppression, and create a cumulative factor for every turn the defending city sits at 0% culture: 5% chance of revolt the first turn, 6% chance the second turn, and so on. After a dozen turns, you'd be up to 20% odds of a revolt, and it WOULD happen if the cultural defender didn't get off their fanny and get some culture going! As it is now, we're actually back to Civ3-land where DICE ROLLS mostly determine the flips. You might get lucky, as I did at Gao with two quick revolts. You might get unlucky, as I did at Antium, and the AI just won't do anything, so the flip happens EVENTUALLY anyway. Or, you might get unlucky and the AI actually does something about it, as we saw at Sakae. Regardless, this system needs some more tweaking!
OK, I hope that wasn't too much of a tangent. Back to the story... The turns immediately leading up to 1400AD were some of the most important in the game, so I illustrated them closely with screenshots. First of all, I built Taj Mahal in Thebes (thanks, marble!) and triggered my first golden age:
Now look at the arrow pointing to my research above. I've been doing something tricky with my science throughout the 1300s and it's about to come to fruition here. First, I finish research on Constitution on the 1376 turn. On the next turn, I pop another Great Person - yay, got my Great Scientist!
Newton produces the much-delayed Academy in the capital. But more importantly, look at the research choice above: I have gone back to a 99% completed Liberalism which I never finished earlier. That means that on the next turn in 1388, I will take the unorthodox step...
Of a DEMOCRACY grab! Don't be fooled by the 7 turns in the picture above, that's with a full turn of overflow research while in a golden age. Democracy was fully half again the beaker cost of all the other techs listed there.
So I have Democracy tech WELL before anyone else, at least 50 turns before the AI civs. What does that mean? Aside from the Emancipation unhappiness which I will gleefully inflict upon them, I'll also be 100% guaranteed to land the Statue of Liberty. (I start the wonder right away in Alexandria - making good use of that copper grabbed by Ice Flipper! - but this being Epic speed, it's still a good 39 turns away.) Most importantly, however, is the fact that my cottages will grow at double speed while running Emancipation. That's a gigantic advantage, since no one else will have this tech for ages and ages down the road. I would actually swap back and forth between Emancipation and Slavery for a period here, getting in some whippings every now and then, while trying to spend as much time running Emancipation as possible.
With the most land and population, plus rapid-growing cottages at my disposal, I was about to break this game wide open on the research front. Diplomatically, however, there was still plenty of work to be done, and the AIs themselves were about to give me a new opportunity in that regard...