|RBCiv Epic Thirteen|
World Size: Standard
Land Mass: 30%
Land Shape: Continents
These are my results from Epic Thirteen of the Realms Beyond Civilization tournament. Click Here to visit the Epics home page for the specific rules and goals of this event, or for more information about the Epics.
This game was sponsored by Arathorn, and the scenario concept was his idea. Domination without being allowed to attack or bombard any cities ever? That's a great concept. I figured this game to be one of a kind, and I would not be disappointed.
In arranging this game, I made two requests for changes from his original proposal: 1) That he change it from Pelago to Continents (to fit better with the mix of the rest of the epics of that time); 2) That there be a food bonus at the start. There had been some requests to lower the difficulty factor of this one to Monarch, and I thought it would be better to leave it on Emperor but ensure a strong starting growth potential.
The food bonus tile was not immediately visible on start, but I knew one would be there, as Arathorn agreed. My strategy would be two-fold: first, to expand as rapidly as possible, try to grab as much land as I could, anywhere I might find it; second, to build my culture as high and as fast as possible. Other than spreading out with settlers and workers, culture would be the top priority. Markets and banks would wait. Everything into culture.
The land grab is obvious. However, down the line, what I would need most of all was protection from culture flips. That's right. I was not concerned about flipping the enemy. I was concerned about placing aggressive cities and then losing them to flips. Any city lost could not be attacked to recapture it, so I wanted to be sure that a combination of massive culture and significant garrisons could ensure the stability of any pressured cities. That the culture would also help flip some AI cities, I had no doubt, although I was rather certain that that would not be enough to win in any timely fashion. No, down the line, it would be propaganda that would win me this game, as I knew that mission prices for propaganda were tied to city size, and I could lay a starvation siege onto enemy cities like I did to Athens in Epic Five, to cut them down to manageable sizes.
OK, so that's my plan. Now... how to begin? A farmer's gambit. No, not the namby-pamby "I'm building settlers, this must be a farmer's gambit" use of the term that has sprung up. When I coined the term Farmer's Gambit, it had a specific definition: no military. A settler BEFORE the first military unit, that's a farmer's gambit. No exploration, none, nada, zippo: that's a farmer's gambit, sending your unescorted settlers out into the fog to grab whatever lands are next in your path. More cities than you have military units, with a bunch of cities sitting around empty even as AI's wander past them, that is a farmer's gambit.
Let me show you a real Farmer's Gambit:
The wheat turned out to be on a flood plain, which is a very big deal. Very big. That's almost as good as having two wheat grasslands. The tile was in the second radius, though, and for whatever reason at the time, I was thinking I had to irrigate over to it, not registering that there was a second river up there. Still, I irrigated the grass next to my capital, then moved on to the wheat without building a road. I should have done the road first, no irrigation, then moved to the wheat. If you DO have to irrigate your way to a bonus food tile, though, this is the way to do it. One turn to move, four to irrigate, another turn to move again, four more to irrigate again, and bang, your second-radius bonus food tile is done irrigating just as borders expand to include it and bring it online.
Now what was my game plan? Culture-culture-culture. So of course I started with the temple. Might as well, since I could not start the granary until pottery research was completed, and the 1000 year bonus would kick in in 2550BC!
The hut was of some concern. If it popped yokels, I could be in some trouble. That's why this is called a "gambit". Luck broke my way, however:
OK, so that temporary order for warriors was cancelled and I pulled up a barracks placeholder. When pottery came in, I would swap to granary. Meanwhile, I irrigated another floodplain, and only then brought the worker back to build a road on the irrigated grassland. I would leave that grass irrigated and mine around it, mining the bg tiles next.
Note: no military units, no exploration. This is how a true farmer's gambit works: the ONLY priority is settlers as fast as possible. Everything else waits. New cities build their own warriors, workers, and temples, in whatever order is most appropriate per site, while the capital continues to churn only settlers. Note this is not possible without wheat or cattle bonuses, thus the "farmer's gambit". A site with no tiles able to exceed two food is not capable of a farmer's gambit. You need rich farmlands, or else your low-food high-shield arrangement will have you building a lot more military while you wait for the city to regrow, to make more settlers.
The farmer's gambit used to be very safe, but the 1.29 patch dramatically increased AI willingness to attack in the earliest parts of the game. So this was a major risk, and this early stage the most vulnerable.
Knowing there was a river with lots of flood plains up there, and also because that's the direction my road led, thus the direction in which my settlers would get a couple of turns of free movement saved, my first settler went northeast and he found another flood plain wheat!
So now I've built temple-granary-settler. It was time to build a warrior. One warrior. Not because I wanted military, but because I needed to let the city grow one more size larger before moving into permanent settler-cranking mode. And then my original worker ran off to Bombay to irrigate that other wheat, so I had to train a replacement for Delhi. Thus my build order started out: temple-granary-settler, warrior-worker-settler, then settlers EVERY FOUR TURNS from there until the cows came home. No joke. Four turns for each settler. Settler finishes the same turn the city grows to size 7, dropping it back to size 5. I ran 7 shields per turn at size 5, then 8 shields per turn at size 6, with five food per turn income from the wheat and only two turns to grow with a granary in place. Four turns per settler.
My early temple and early 1000-bonus expanded my borders quickly, revealing wines to the north. I sent my third city there, and my fourth southeast along the same river as Delhi. Now sometimes the farmer's gambit has drawbacks for dotmap purposes: you are moving into the fog and don't get a good look around before you settle. As such, my fourth city ended up landlocked, instead of having a port, and this would hold some consequences for me down the line. More on that later, here's another peek at my farmer's gambit progress:
By luck alone, Delhi's bonus wheat led my road, and thus my earliest settlers, in the direction of my AI neighbors. A French unit showed up from the northwest, and a Bab unit from the northeast. Aha! French to northwest, Babs to northeast. Got it. Righto. Well, rather than expand behind me, with nobody showing up from the south, I vowed to push right into the teeth of the AI's. I would expand toward them, aggressively establish our borders (complete with overlap, and me intending to dominate them culturally).
The AI's were politely respecting my borders, even moving out of them when temples expanded. And I mean I was raising those temples as soon as possible. If a city had two or more food and two shields, build a warrior, then ten shields and whip a temple the moment it got to size 2. If two or more food and one shield, no warrior. Temple first, wait ten turns, whip. Only then build units, and probably a worker first. Who needs military??? We're farmers. :) One city had forests, one food and two shields. It built its temple without the whip, and did so immediately.
I settled two very aggressive city sites along rivers, right on top of French cities. (Wait? French Cities? In the northeast? And Bab cities to the northwest? Guess you can't necessarily trust that an AI's homeland will be in the direction of first contact with their scouts). I settled a good city up on the Bab frontier, too, and only then sent one south for the first time around 1500BC:
Eight cities, a settler, a few workers, only four regular warriors and no scouting whatsoever, in 1500BC. THAT is a Farmer's Gambit (TM).
Delhi on nonstop settlers. Helped somewhat, apparently, by passive-only barbarians, via randomized setting, as there were huts but no barb camps or wandering brigands that I saw. Sending unescorted settlers out into fog is much chancier with barbarians around. Bombay on a wonder. Madras building workers. Bangalore looking, down the line, to hold my first barracks and start filling in the defenses. Calcutta is the one exception on "temple ASAP". I felt it needed a military unit and sooner rather than later. Rest of my cities starting down the long path to self-sufficiency and high culture.
When my min sci gambit came in on Polytheism, I was able to trade that to the French for Mapmaking and to buy the AI maps. Turns out I had squeezed the AI's pretty tightly. They had both already run out of expansion room. I also spotted three gaps in their dotmapping where I could squeeze pressured cities to make use of their bits of wasted land. There's a gap between Ninevah and Lyons that looked the most promising. There is a gap on the coast east of Calcutta, not a great site, but it would be worth grabbing, put some more pressure on Rheims. The third gap was in the heart of the French lands, quite a stretch, but I hoped that I might flip Rheims quickly. If not, my city could hold out for a while, although all that pressure would be like the ivory city founded near London in RBD SG18, which despite thousands of gold spent on it and a large garrison, still flipped away. So the question on this third gap was, do I make a bold move now and try to secure it, knowing that it would be lost in any war, and if not might still flip? Or do I stop and wait, and settle it later, when I can be more sure of holding it?
Fortune favors the bold. I decided to go for all three gaps. They'd each need heavy garrison, but I was already on the threshold of making a shift over to catch up in military. Or... so I thought at the time.
When I established embassy with France, I saw that they were slightly ahead on the Pyramids. Not good news. This was a significant continent, and I had built NO granaries except in Delhi, expecting to get the Pyramids. I also concentrated my workers into the hills at Delhi to mine, and build up more shields, try to speed that wonder. Well, the Zulus finished the Oracle rather earlyish, and that left me with no wonder backup at Delhi. When I reached the point at which I would arrive at 200 shields the next turn, with some nineteen turns left to go on the Pyramids, I decided to investigate Paris.
Now I tend not to spend money on investigations. Usually, I can deduce the relevant information by way of paying attention and doing my own math. And even when that fails, most situations offer a backup: some other wonder to grab instead. Occasionally, though, you've just got to know. I spent over 100g on this investigation, but... the information was worth it:
Well, they have an insurmountable six turn lead. I swapped Bombay to FP and finished it that turn. That's right, FP completed in 925BC: the soonest I have ever self-built my FP in any game.
This provided a great boost, actually. You might think that it only helped four cities: itself and the three to its east, but no. It also helped cities west and south of Delhi by moving them UP in the "closest to the core" queue. Now instead of hitting the optimum city corruption limit at the eighth city, and having some cities on the fringe badly corrupted, I now had two cores, an eastern and a western. Thus I had two center cities, two number ones, two number twos, etc. The corruption went down noticeably, and for cities with improved tiles because of all the heavy worker activity, it made an immediate impact all over my empire. I also figured that if the lands to the south proved signficant enough, I might move my Palace down there later, or at least move it down to Jaipur. Time would tell.
Delhi continued to pump those settlers, one every four turns. I built a settler out of Bangalore too. One. The only one not built by Delhi.
I secured the entire jungle in the south, including the length of that short river down there, and its bit of grassland. In the mean time, there was a tiny island off my east coast, and I whipped a galley out to go explore and grab it. I had my settler pair waiting to board ship, and who sails by? Babylon! They sent a ship all the way around France and beat me to this tiny island by ONE turn! They also built on the outside tile, where they could gain full control of their 21, so there would be no chance to flip it once it built a temple. And the Babs have cheap temples. Dammit, dammit. I was not happy. If only Banglalore had been on the coast, I'd have been able to produce a ship sooner. Oh well. If I would ever get this island and its twelve tiles (two land, ten coastal) it would have to be via a peace treaty concession after a war, or else via Propaganda. The only silver lining was that my ship and settler pair headed south immediately, and with them I secured the northernmost, isolated silk on that little peninsula.
Now as I grabbed the jungles, the dyes, the river, I had stopped sending more settlers that way, figuring there wasn't much land left down there. I started grabbing those three gaps in the AI pattern up north, so as not to have my sites fall too far behind on culture (and even have a chance to dominate). Well, I miscalulated in the south, BIG TIME. Although the land got thinner the farther south it went, it stretched all the way to the Antarctic Ocean, which I still didn't know yet. And I had let all kinds of AI settler pairs through, thinking they'd only grab a couple sites. Now I was scrambling to slow them with whatever sad blockades I could manage, my cities all empty as the few warriors I had in the area were running a song and dance. I used my ship to ferry settler pairs down there, and ones I didn't have room for, had to walk, trailing the AI pairs. Delhi was STILL producing new settlers at one every four turns, seesawing between size 5 and 7. Bombay was prebuilding for the hanging gardens, and the rest of my cities were scrambling to build the granaries I had skipped earlier, or temples, or more workers, or the occasional warrior.
The Babs grabbed two good sites, one at the cattle. France plopped an aggressive city down to compete for the dyes. In the screenshot below, my ship at Ganges has just completed its second drop off, and you can see on the minimap, my new, aggressive settlement just south of Lagash. There was just fog south of that, but the pink vessel you see will be dropping off a French settler down there to grab the major silk deposit. And... that's the all the AI's will get down there: two cities apiece.
My ship on its third trip ferries a settler to the gap between Lagash and Samarra, very aggressive site for me. My settler in the picture there grabs the horses. Meanwhile, the French as you can see have popped a hut. They survive one of the barbs, but then flee the others, losing their lead. Two of the barbs ransack Dacca for BIG BUCKS, but the hut-poppers lost a chance to grab more land as a result.
My ship's fourth trip carried a settler to the wheat region south of the silks, and I even managed to pilfer one silk into my range with an aggressive settlement. My choice of spot gobbled up all the remaining land on the south of the continent except for the tippy tip of the very deep south, one tile, on which I parked a warrior until such time as I could rushbuy a settler from the wheat site down there. I'll show a picture later.
I would also rushbuy a ship and grab the two tiny islands off the west coast, but more on this in a moment.
All in all, a gangland success! My farmer's gambit hemmed in the AI's. Despite allowing too many settler pairs through for way of underestimating the damage they could do, I made a decent recovery and secured all but four sites in the south, and even those were all signficantly pressured. I grabbed my three gaps in the north, and I was ready to shift into "build up my military" mode. The only "race" I lost that had me upset was that tiny island off the east coast of Lahore that Babylon had grabbed.
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