Epic Eight: Versus the American Menace

When FDR declared war on Caesar in 1565AD, I literally said the word "YES!" out loud. (Probably a good thing I'm living in a solo apartment right now. ) This was the break I needed; declaring war on America myself without just cause would only make some of my allies upset, but taking up the side of the right and true in a Roman/American war... ah, now THAT had possibilities! I knew that I could use this as a wedge to separate the Hindu civs from FDR; if I could just get them all to declare on the Americans, then that would poison their relationship and ensure that they would never vote for him!

See, that's the critical component of the diplomatic vote that I was always missing before this game. It's NOT enough to get the AIs to like you. That's only half the equasion. You have to get them to HATE your opponent at the same time - negative campaign ads, anyone? In previous games, I kept getting matched up against one of my friends, a situation in which the current UN rules simply break down. Unfortunately, much of the time that's going to be the case, and you can't always do anything about it. But in THIS game, where I could identify my future opponent literally in BC years, I could plan my ENTIRE actions around isolating FDR diplomatically and pulling the other civs to my side. And this war was only going to further that. So in a very real way, the upcoming vote will be a measuring stick of just how well I understand and can manage the diplo game. For the first time, I've understood what was going on from start to finish. Will that translate into a win? We're going to find out as soon as I can reach Mass Media technology.

FDR may have declared war, but Caesar drew first blood:

Uzbek was the barb city that I first came across back in the extremely early game. I was glad to see it pass into Roman hands, except for one thing: Caesar added another Taoist city to his empire, and that must have tipped him over the line into declaring a new state religion (check the announcement on the left side of the screen). Ack! With FDR declaring war on the Romans (a big, fat -3 to their relations) it was unlikely that Caesar would vote for my opponent, but I still had better do everything I could to get that religious symbol turned back to the Hindu one!

Needless to say, you knew this was coming:

An American crusade? I'm game for that.

In fact, a crusade sounded like such a good idea, I pulled in Mao on our side as well, in order to pile up some additional military struggle bonuses. And while I was dishing out techs for wars, I paid Liz Printing Press in order to restart the Arabian/English war. OK, that last one was definitely a dastardly action and not at all in the spirit of this game, but dang it - I need to make sure Saladin doesn't start piling up culture in Nottingham so it will flip to me! This seemed like a further good idea because both Liz and Mansa were on very good terms with FDR, and I picked up a -1 penalty with each for my war declaration. They refused to declare war on the Americans under any circumstances. Oh well, I guess that would have made the game TOO easy...

A couple turns later, my cultural gameplan in El-Amarna paid off with my first revolt in Nottingham!

Just one more to go, c'mon! Take a look at the score box on the right side of the screen too; I paid Caesar another outdated tech to convert back to Hinduism, which swapped the -3 different religions penalty into a +5 shared faith bonus. Wow! Talk about the importance of religion! No wonder most alliances in this game center around faith of some kind.

With Caesar's conversion back to Hinduism, I was up to Friendly relations with all four of my targeted civs! Still a ways to go, but we're in good shape here.

After researching Scientific Method, I first made a pitstop to Biology (never a bad decision for a diplo population goal!) and then began the beeline to Mass Media. A Great Scientist knocked out about half of Physics, and then the free Great Scientist from that tech researched a good portion of Electricity. After that, I just had Radio and Mass Media to go.

Meanwhile, the war in the northwest raged on, with the city of Boston changing hands several times:

FDR would end up holding onto this city, although it was briefly occupied by both Rome and China. I now did a population count of FDR's cities and realized that he was only about 15 population points ahead of Caesar. That gave me a light cushion in terms of the UN, but if it looked like Caesar was about to capture another American city, I would have to pay Caesar to make PEACE, or else he would supplant FDR as the opponent and wreck all my plans! That didn't end up happening, but I was paying close attention to the map and using scouts to follow the Roman stacks all the same just in case. So even my grand diplomatic triumph of lining up Mao and Caesar versus FDR had its share of risks too!

Some good news appeared just two turns later when Nottingham flipped to me, woohoo!

That's my third flip of the game, definitely the most I've ever gotten. Seeing as how I made no use of the cultural slider to get these flips, just getting by on pure culture and specialists alone, I think that's pretty darn good. (And I SHOULD have gotten flips at Sakae and Awdaghost too, for that matter!) Even better, Nottingham came with an Academy intact - thank you Liz! By the way, note that El-Amarna is already over 750 culture and out to level 4 borders. You can really get culture going quickly late in the game if you use the right civics, specialists, and tile improvements. Unfortunately no other cities in range to flip at the moment, but we'll see what happens once Nottingham gets the full cultural treatment too!

The Diplomatic Revolution

A new ally literally came out of left field here as I began pushing towards the Modern Age. If you remember back to earlier, Tokugawa converted to Hinduism shortly after 1000AD, but as his usual isolationist self I wrote him off and pretty much ignored him for centuries. He fell hopelessly behind technologically, as expected. However, as I continued to run 100% research at a deficit, I began to fuel my research with sales of outdated techs to Toku. Somehow he kept coming up with good money for me to accumulate in sales. Well, even with the penalty from declaring war on Japan earlier, eventually all those tech sales got us a +4 from "fair and forthright trade relations", and that along with +4 from shared faith was enough to get Toku up to "Pleased" relations! In the same way that I had changed Mao from a lukewarm leader into a trusted friend earlier, I could now pay Toku a tech to DECLARE WAR on the Americans!!!

Look at that modifier highlighted above: mutual military struggle, baby! And Toku and FDR will be poisoned against each other now too. Can you believe that I'm signing Open Borders with TOKUGAWA?! I'm not sure I've EVER signed Open Borders with Tokugawa in any previous game. Toku, my friend. Un-frickin-believable.

Liz asked me to declare war on Saladin a couple turns later in 1646, and I once again agreed to do so. Since all of my Hindu friends disliked Saladin by now, I did not pick up any relations minuses for doing so. If I was going to be embroiled in a second war, I figured I might as well get the rest of my allies on the same page as me, so I paid Mansa a tech to join in the war. Mao had just signed peace with FDR, so I got him to jump in too for another tech. The important thing is to keep that shared military struggle running strong with everyone in the game (except FDR and Saladin, naturally).

Here's a picture from inside Nottingham eight turns after it flipped, showing how I set things up to produce culture quickly:

Yes, I've managed to pile up 188 culture in 8 turns - and I'm pumping another 36 every turn! In these situations, the first thing my workers do is chop a cheap Creative theatre, or barring that, have the city work the mined hill tiles to produce it as fast as possible. Once I have a theatre up, I can force a free Artist specialist (from State of Liberty) plus another normal specialist by working the bonus food tiles in the city radius without slowing growth. Each Artist produces 6 culture (remember I have Sistine), plus 1 culture from Hinduism, plus 3 culture from the theatre, plus 2 culture from being Creative, and then everything is doubled for running Free Speech civic. Tada! 36 culture/turn. If that sounds good now, keep in mind I'll be at 45 culture once I finish Eiffel Tower, and can force even more Artist specialists with the free broadcast tower.

I discover Radio in 1661 and enter the Modern Age, beginning research on Mass Media for the UN. Two turns later, Thebes produces a Great Scientist and I use him to trigger a golden age to speed along the last tech!

Where did the Prophet come from for this Golden Age? From ICE FLIPPER, of course! You better not say that was a worthless city, okay?

Toku eventually made peace with FDR, and to keep our military struggle bonus going I bought him into the war against Saladin. Here's what the world looked like for poor Sal at that date:

Poor guy! And yet, I can't emphasize enough how much Saladin helped me in this game. Yes, you read that right. Saladin was critical to my gameplan! I couldn't have everyone declaring war on America endlessly, because 1) Mansa and Liz just refused to do it, and 2) too much warring would cause America's cities to starve and knock him out of the second place spot. What I needed was a big patsy, a weak civ to sic everyone else on and reap the benefits of shared military struggle. Someone like... Saladin! I thought that his founding of Buddhism would hurt me at the outset of the game, but it turned out to be a HUGE asset instead, leaving Sal diplomatically isolated and weak while my Hindu coalition used his poor civ for a punching bag. Everyone hated Sal, and if we ALL lined up and fought him at once, then we'd all be like one big, happy family. With me at the head, of course.

Outside Medina, things were not going well for Sal:

I've already identified my next location for an aggressive city, on the yellow circle, and I have a settler ready to go. (Of course, if the AIs choose to raze rather than capture, I'll have to hurry more than one settler down here to grab all the new land!) By 1697, Saladin had nothing but CATAPULTS left defending in Medina. And yet... the AIs inexplicably failed to capture the city. Mansa decided to pillage with his cavs rather than capture the darned civ. Argh! Stupid AI! *sigh* Having to work through these AIs instead of doing the fighting yourself sure is tiresome. It's rather like running a minion army with a necromancer from Diablo 2. You have only the feeblest control over these AI entities, and I didn't even have any curse support to help out. If only I had a little "Lower Resist" to use on the AI cities, or maybe some "Dim Vision" to cast on the Arabian defenders.

Anyway, if you look closely at that last screenshot, you'll see that I have over 6000 gold in the bank and am running 0% science to accumulate more money. That's right, since I lack Assembly Line and have no factories, the fastest way to build the UN is to use what I'll always think of as the "Speaker UN rush" via Universal Suffrage. Well, after nine turns of cash accumulation I have enough money to get it done in 1703:

Almost 11,000 gold, ouch! Things have come a long way from version 1.09 when Speaker rushed the same thing (with considerably fewer shields in the box) for 4000 gold. And yet it was still much faster than building things the usual way, as it took only 9 turns to accumulate the gold while it would have taken 25+ to build the wonder naturally. Alexandria's 50 shields/turn was actually pretty darn good for the pre-rails, pre-factory era. (That would easily be over 100 shields/turn in a later era. Not bad for a city that looked so poor at the start of the game!)

So the UN has arrived, and at a fairly early date. Time to find out if all this planning will pay off.