|RBCiv Epic Nine|
World Size: Standard
Land Mass: 30%
Land Shape: Continents
Victory: Conquest Only
These are my results from Epic Nine 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 is the first Epic sponsored by another member of the community: Arathorn. He chose all of the settings, except for the game environment variables, which were left random. As a conquest-only game, the threats to the player in losing the game would be fewer, but it would also require more time (player time and game time) to reach victory.
We drew an equatorial start yet without a lick of desert anywhere in sight, and endless miles of jungle to the west. Obviously a wet climate, either temperate or cool. Lots of mountains around, possibly a rugged setting, but certainly not flat. And raging barbarians? Could get ugly.
The start is on a river, on a bonus grassland square with no food bonuses in range. There are mountains to the north, and in hopes of redeeming some of them, I opt to move NW one tile, onto a hill. I didn't need a size 30 capital: I needed one with lots of shields to be cranking tanks every turn. (Looking far ahead, of course). This would also appear to leave more grass and hills for a strong second city just to my southeast, downriver. The worker starts mining the start tile.
Now see, here's a new dilemma with this 1.29 patch. On Deity, the tech rate has been increased (for both players and AI's) by a 5 to 3 factor. This means non-expansionist civs have a problem: it takes a lot longer to research pottery on your own even at 100% science. Industrious civs can use the Pyramids as placeholder, and scientific civs can use Colossus IF the capital is on the coast. Non-militaristic civs can use barracks for up to 40 shields, but Japan and Aztecs have it the worst: a settler is the best placeholder they can manage, and so unless they can trade for pottery with a close neighbor, they can't whip out that very early granary. It just isn't going to happen: you have less of a prebuild done when the tech comes in.
So my build order for this game was warrior, temple, warrior, granary. The early temple would make me the strongest culture on the planet... for about a thousand years, give or take half a millenium. That might aid me some in early diplomatics, and it would get the cultural bonus very quickly. After the game ended, I went back to this time period to grab a screen shot (my earliest showing any terrain was 1810BC) and found only a couple of saves. I went and selected this one:
You can see pottery coming in 3 turns (been 100% sci the whole way) and a barracks prebuild lasting for up to 4 turns. My scouting warrior headed north, then west, as you can see, and has just found a hut. I opted not to pop that hut, remembering my poor results from Epic Four. Barbarians are just so nasty on Deity, you can't take them lightly. I thought I might come back and pop the hut later, but I never had the resources to spare, as it turns out, and one of the AI's got the hut. (If anyone gets a settler out of there, they might do SUBSTANTIALLY better than my game, but so it goes). In the screenie, you can see a dye in the jungle and a patch of ivory to the north. I vowed to send my first and second settlers to these sites to grab the lux for myself. And why was that so urgent? Because I'd already met a neighbor.
Persia came along very quickly, and I ended up making this trade:
First off, being the Japanese meant I was the only civ to start the wheel. I should perhaps have held off on trading that away, as I might gain large benefits by trading it to several civs at once, but on Deity I feared losing it either to a threat (which I could not refuse) or the AI's pulling it out of a hut or even researching it quickly. So I made the trade.
And pulling a worker in 3450BC... if there is ONE place this is not devastating to the AI, it's on Deity. On Deity, the AI's START with three workers. Three! And two settlers. That's why they get such a jump on you. Their growth and production and research discounts don't hurt them either, but it's a double whammy with over a dozen free units, free support for the extras, two cities to start every game, and a pack of workers. Them losing ONE worker even this early on Deity just doesn't mean the same thing as it does on lower settings, although if you were to pore through the diplo screen and grab every worker available, it might add up to a lot more.
In any event, I played this game and made this trade before the Epic Eight report day came around and the worker issue arose. As of this writing, no policy has been established that would take worker buys off the table, in whole or part, for Epics games, and one reason I'm hesititating is that I'm still not comfortable with the options that have been put forth so far, by myself or others. Trading for workers "in moderation", in a way that does not cripple the AI's and alter the entire course of the game, is difficult to measure. As you will soon see, losing this one worker didn't slow Persia down much if any in this game. Yet the evidence of how much the loss of workers can cripple the AI's on any setting is abundant. You just have to buy more workers on Deity to achieve the same effect as buying one will achieve on lower settings.
Since my personal games are now pretty much exclusively Deity games, I just don't have an issue with this one being a problem. If I buy or trade for one worker even this early, it doesn't appear to skew the game. And the idea that I have to try to lay out some specific limits, without the bounds of which it's "always OK" to buy whatever workers you can, but outside which is "too much" and detracting from the game balance... it's a daunting task. Very easy to write a rule, but very difficult to write a GOOD rule.
Since the notion of poring over the diplo screen -- every AI every turn, looking for those early workers and missing no opportunity to grab them -- appears to have originated with the CF GOTM, I have some antipathy toward them for being so rabidly eager to min/max the game to death. Is it clever to buy up all the workers you can? In one sense, sure. It definitely works. In another sense, though, it's like the AI's offering to trade you a rook for a pawn in a chess game. It's not a fair trade, and it dramatically alters the game balance. The AI needs to be reprogrammed to refuse to sell its last two workers under any circumstances. That might remove the problem. If the AI has five workers and you buy one, it's not that big of a deal. If they have two and you buy them both, though, they're devastated. Where the line sits, between legitimate and disfunctional, I am still unsure. There is clearly some legitimate place for worker trade in the game, and clearly also a place at which excessive worker trade can impact the game as much as taking away half a difficulty level of challenge. That's not a good thing for a tournament game.
Anyhow, I also knew with all this jungle that one AI worker wasn't going to make the game for me. I'd need a LOT of workers very quickly to start chewing through that jungle. I took the worker, even at that time, because it was all I could get. If I didn't take the worker, I wouldn't get full value on my tech trade. X-man was broke.
Now you can go back to the first screenie, see two workers and know the second was a Persian slave.
The Persians were to the southeast, making it even more imperative that I expand in that direction first. The dyes might have to wait. Yet even as I raced through the granary at my best pace, a stream of barbarians started coming down from the north. I had a nervous moment when my lone regular warrior had to defend vs one. If they beat me down and came in and disrupted my granary progress, it would be an enormous setback.
My warrior survived that first attack with 1hp left. Arg! Close call. My granary completed before the next barbarian arrived, but only barely. I ordered up a regular spearman next (would have preferred to be training a settler), as it was clear that the barbs would keep coming until the AI's hunted down their camp. I had the defensive benefit of the hill I had moved onto. I wonder how those who founded on the start tile will have fared vs the barbs. Because as it turns out, just like the last Deity Epic (Four), the southern part of the continent was packed and the northern deserted. Only this time, instead of the player isolated in the north, they were in the middle, with all empty space to the north. Similar situation, though: the player was the one in harm's way regarding barbarian outbreaks. I still didn't know that at this point, though.
So I built warrior, temple, warrior, granary, spearman, settler. My settler was not produced until about 2400BC and by that time, the Persians founded their SIXTH city, and it was just out of range to the the southeast of my capital! My goodness! The only fertile land in the area and they had grabbed it!!! The only way I could have beat them to it would have been to produce a settler in front of a granary, and without food bonuses that's a huge slowdown on total growth curve.
By that time I had figured out that the AI's on the continent were all to the south. I thought the north was narrow, room for a few cities at most, but I was wrong. The north expanse was HUGE. I sent my first settler right into the jungle, to secure the dyes. I had to build on the river, though, so I chose to build on the gold hill, and try to get my third city to the coast and form a border, then fill in behind it. The problem with that plan was... the AI's refused to cooperate. In 1900ish BC, Persia sent a settler pair toward my borders, clearly intending to pass through and settle on my back side. I scrambled to form a blockade to slow them while I tried to buy myself some time to at least grab the rest of the lands in my immediate area.
I knew that three units weren't going to cut it, so I had to train more, yet I also had to train settlers or it would all be for naught. What a brutal situation to start a game. Lots of space to compete for, but the AI's so cramped that the competition was coming my way in a hurry. Some folks will do OK with this, I'm sure, but I expect this situation to overwhelm some players. This is on the high side of "difficult" for a start position. Lots of bad land around: mountains, jungle. Barbarians raging from the only direction in which you can expand (so unescorted settlers are out, at least until the AI's get their forces up there, and that's not desirable either). Good long term, awful short term. The little good land is highly contested (and I chose not to contest it. I didn't want to risk a flip vs powerhouse Persia). How is one player with no food bonuses supposed to outrace three Deity AI's with much larger and many more cities?
I absolutely FEARED the AI's getting up to steal the rich ivory location from me, so my original plan of grabbing dyes then ivory actually got followed after all, though now for different reasons.
Note all of the AI's in the area, cleaning up the barb camps and goodie huts. I was actually grateful to have them up there, too. Keep the heat off my fledgling little city.
My dyes location was just awful for a second city: I needed to expand its borders as top priority (so it built a temple from scratch, unable to whip), then trained several workers in a row, keeping it busy for thousands of years. The Persians added a second settler, then the Chinese joined the jungle push with their own settler, and my blockade was already in trouble.
I did manage to block those three pairs, but then China got frustrated trying to find a way around and after one turn of shuffling back and forth, they actually plopped down right where they stood, in a very awkward spot. And then Persia followed suit, putting ENORMOUS cultural pressure on my poor Osaka. Apparently they were all very hungry for those dyes!
Persia replaced the settler pair they had used up, while Egypt came along and settled south of Osaka in a location that would eventually force overlap with Osaka. Arrgh! This is just awful! I'd have to race the AI's for cultural dominance in the area! I had some thin hopes of actually flipping some of their cities to me, but "thin" is the operative word there. I was more worried about the opposite.
I managed to eke out a fourth settler in time to grab the lake site, then a fifth that put my capital back to size 1. Egypt had two settler pairs in the region and Persia had two, and my blockade was scrambling to delay them while my capital churned settlers at its best pace now.
I also thought about putting a settler east on the coast, with one tile of overlap with the Persian city there, but I needed about six settlers and only had one. I went for resources first, then fertile lands.
With Persia and China having those cities so close to Osaka and to one another, hostilities seemed brewing. (Was that my doing? With the blockade leading them to settle in odd locations? Perhaps). Persia attacks China and starts sending immortals across my south lawn. China now has grabbed that tiny island due west of the lake and wheat, and there are more settler pairs spread out more widely than I can stop them. Maybe I SHOULD have formed a dastardly blockade with eight units across the choke line, but they'd only have gone around in ships. They would do some of that anyway!
With the war, did the settler pairs dry up? Nope. Or at least, if they did it was back home. There were already many such pairs already produced and coming through. Two Chinese pairs and two Egyptian pairs got caught in my blockade net at Edo. Meanwhile, one Persian pair slipped past over by Kyoto, through the mountains, and two Egyptian pairs also. This after my sixth settler had a safe lead, so as it turns out, I would get six choice sites in the home area, with room for two fishing villages and one squeezed half city between Tokyo and Satsuma.
Not every Persian unit pair there is a settler pair. One is, but the others are pairs of units on the march. Persian's eight city was on the coast, badly overlapping where I had wanted to plant a city, so I had completely failed in the race to settle anything to the south or east. What's worse, there were about half a dozen wasted tiles in "no man's land" between Kyoto and Persia: the same tiles I had moved away from! Arrgh!
My seventh settler grabbed the fishing village location above Kyoto (I feared the AI's grabbing it, right there on my doorstep). The very AI pairs that threatened that site and forced me to grab it all sped past my capital while I continued the centuries-long blockade of the two Chinese and two Egyptian pairs at Edo. Before I could get my eight settler out there, though, my blockade collapsed completely, with two more Egyptian settler pairs passing me, and a couple of Persians. Two Chinese pairs also go through, although Persia slew one of them and kept the workers.
The Persian-Chinese war raged on and on, with Persia clearly winning and their golden age production unleashing a tidal wave of new immortals. No Chinese cities falling yet, so I had hope the war might end before too much damage was done to them, or that they might hold their own. With about half a billion immortals near Osaka, X-man called me up and threatened me for my meager cash. I caved, of course (you always cave on Deity, in the early game -- and the late game, too, for that matter, but perhaps with some exceptions). The lost money was the bad news. The good news was that X-man immediately used the extorted cash to found an embassy with me, and move relations all the way from Annoyed to Polite!
I knew the situation was bad in terms of my blockade's collapse. I just never imagined HOW bad. Once I had traded for wold maps and saw how much space was available up there, I KNEW I had not let so many settlers through as to allow the AI's to grab all the land. So my eighth settler would have to grab something, even if it was table scraps in terms of land quality.
But nope. That didn't happen. My ninth settler, trained out of Satsuma, filled gap between there and Tokyo, giving me eight cities and FP eligibility. My settler from Kyoto wandered the lands, the AI's always a step ahead. Always! And what distant corners were not grabbed by the settlers I'd let through, were grabbed before I could get there by settlers sent via galley. Arrgh. Arrrrrrrrrrrgh! After spinning my wheels with that settler for centuries on end, wasting time and slowing the growth of the fishing village east of Tokyo I COULD have founded ages ago, I finally had no other place to send that settler and recalled him home, which would take more centuries to do, having to avoid now-expanding AI borders and take the long way around.
Despite centuries of successful blocking, which DID allow me to claim all the land immediately north and west of my capital, I failed to claim even a single lick of land beyond that staked out with my first six settlers. The other three cities I founded (one yet to be settled, two tiles south of Kagoshima, with the "spare" settler, aka Moses Who Wandered in the Desert) were all squeezed into the cracks between the initial six cities. AND this with real or potential border pressure on all four corners of my empire: Osaka, Tokyo, Satsuma and Kago. A good result, I felt, overall -- enough good land to win on Deity -- but much less than what I was aiming for. Here, the ancient home lands of Sirian's Japan:
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