Civilization 5 Game Diary: Ode to Oda Nobunaga Part 1: The First 100 Turns


No High Scores

With nothing new out there that I’m particularly interested in playing (Bastion excepted; moving slowly through that one), I decided it was time to take a spin through the heavily patched version of Civilization 5. After about eight months with it on the shelf, I’m not so much expecting to find a game I like better than Civ 4 (not really possible), but I’m curious to see if all these changes have been a net benefit for the game. So, what better time for a game diary! (Incidentally, I’m sorry about the lack of posting, from me, of late. My dad, my kids, and I are heading to Disney next week and setting the table at the ole day job this week has been a monster of a burden. This diary represents the first 100 turns of my game. I’ve almost got the next hundred done too, but putting a bow around that will have to wait until I’m back.)

I haven’t tried one of these types of diaries yet, so this should be an interesting experience. Expect typos and inconsistent initial-capping. I’ve broken it down into summaries of batches of turns with a heading indicating the game year and turn number of the end point for that summary. (So a “Turn 68” entry summarizes everything between the previous summary and the end of that turn.) For the game setup, I took standard world size and flow of time, used continent land masses, and set the difficulty at Prince, which is the baseline where neither the user nor the AI gets a distinct advantage. I chose to let the game assign a leader to me and will adjust my strategy based on that. And the verdict is…

Japan!

Suddenly this is going to start to look I’m aping Bill’s awesome Shogun diary. Ah well. Civ 5 portrays the Japanese, as led by the mighty Oda Nobunaga, as a rather warlike culture as its cultural bonus is to give their troops the ability to attack at full strength regardless of actual health. They have an improved Longsword unit (the Samurai) and fighter (The Zero). Looks like we’re going to go for a military victory here, although you never know when my preference for the tech route will take over. Civ is all about plan discipline as it’s hard to change gears 100 turns in and still keep pace with the AI. As you’re about to discover, I’m not a particularly good Civ player so expect a lot of gear-changing.

Note: If you just want to read a summary of the first 100 turns and not the whole diary thing, skip on to the end where I’ve done a quick analysis of both my play and the game.

4000 BC, Turn Zero:
No High Scores

As we begin our quest for world domination we find ourselves in an immediate conundrum. Our Settler has started at a nice cozy spot next to a river with two tiles of Stone and some Dyes already in view. The Stone tiles are on grasslands, which is nice to see as we’d be getting two food along with our free production. Once we have the Masonry tech to build quarries those tiles will help the city produce while still feeding itself. Nice. This also makes the city a high-potential Wonder factory for the great projects I intend to build as testaments to my lasting glory. That said, we can also see the coastline from here, making it tempting to delay building a city for a turn and basing our capital on the coast. There’s a hill to the northeast; should it be coast-accessible from there it might be worth sacrificing access to the dyes and one of the stone tiles. I send my warrior to check it out. Alas, and as you can see here, the coast is another hex off, although the move did reveal some nearby Marble. If we sacrifice having ocean access here our capital will still have fresh water access as well as four different goods tiles. We have decided it’s worth it, though we’ll need to prioritize coastal access for our next city.

For our first tech research project I feel it important that we make haste for Masonry in order to get those Stone tiles producing. That means a stop an Mining first. All told we’ll need a good 25 turns to get there. I direct our scientists forward and turn my attention to our first production task. Our choices are between Worker, Scout, Warrior, or Monument. Settlers can only be built by cities with a size of 2 or greater. This strikes me as different and possibly something altered in a patch, but I’m not positive. Since a Worker will have little to do at this point other than build a Farm that will go unused for a bit, I opt for the Monument to help get our Culture counter moving. That’ll be done in 8 turns and we can press forward with a Worker and then a Settler after that.

Let’s press on.

3640 BC, Turn 9:
No High Scores

We have discovered our first Natural Wonder, Mt. Fuji, which has increased our empire happiness by one, to 6. If we settle near here and work the tile we’ll get an extra commerce and five culture. We need to get growing, but first their are more pressing concerns. Our warrior found some ruins to the north, which he explored and found a cache of these wonderfully long pointy sticks. We will henceforth call them Spearmen. Our enthusiasm for the find is short-lived as we also stumbled upon a Barbarian camp that houses a Warrior. Our unit is stronger and can defend itself, but we’re on flat ground and if attacked will probably not be able to mount an effective counterattack to take out the fort.

Fortunately, the barbarians held their water and did not attack. My military advisor assures me that should we attack them we can carry out a minor victory. I forgo the attack, however, and move the spearman to some hills west of the fort. Should our attack fail, we’ll be better able to defend from there. This fort isn’t going anywhere. On the following turn we attack, sustaining some damage but giving back much better. From our hilly defensive position they don’t dare move out after us. We finish them off on the next turn, sustaining heavy damage but plundering 25 gold and earning a promotion; well worth it. We could heal the unit instantly, but I decide they can afford the rest and instead promote them with the Drill 1 bonus, which grants them more effectiveness in this hilly terrain. I have named their honorable leader Mr. Pointy so that I might track their exploits going forward.

As this unfolded Kyoto grew to a size 2 city while also completing its Monument. It’s tempting to go right for the Settler for our next build, but I want a Worker ready to improve the nearby terrain. We also completed our research into Mining and moved on to Masonry. It should be ready just in time for our completed Worker to get started.

3160 BC, Turn 21:
No High Scores

We have earned our first Social Policy. As we believe in the nobility of combat, I have adopted the Honor policy, granting us an attack strength bonus against barbarians as well as culture for every barbarian slain. Our victories to come will only serve to grow our legend! If you complete the tree you also now get a gold payout for each victory. Pretty sure some of these Honor bonuses are new.

Mr. Pointy’s spearmen have finally healed and pressed further up the coast to the north, finding still more ruins. This time we discover survivors who return to Kyoto and increase our population. Suddenly our need for a settler is that much greater, as is our need for more troops as a new barb encampment has appeared between our spears and Kyoto. We discovery Masonry and complete our worker at the exact same time. A model of efficiency this empire. As much as we should probably build a warrior, what with that new barb camp to the north, we start a Settler. We must expand. In the meantime, I direct our military to provide us with better units to bring glory to our empire. This concept of the Archer sounds most intriguing.

2680 BC, Turn 33:
As time marches on, Mr. Pointy discovered a rogue barb unit. It took two attacks and some recuperation time, but we easily dispatched the heathens. Moving further to the north we discovered yet another encampment, protected by two full units. We took up a defensive position in the nearby forested hills and will hope for glory in the field. These are odds befitting the mighty Japan.

We’ve discovered a new Social Policy, Warrior Code, that grants us increase production efficiency when producing units. A trait that will come in handy as we build our army. It also granted us the services of the Great General, Robert E. Lee. It’s a strange name, but the man knows his stuff. We will endeavor to provide him an army worthy of his talents. In the meantime Rob has decided to explore the nearby countryside, discovering the large city-state of Tyre. They seem to like warfare as much as we do and have an unsettling demeanor about them. (In other words, it’s a Militarisitc city-state with an Irrational personality rating.) Despite their gift of 30 gold, we’ll need to keep an eye on them.

With our Settler complete and an Archer build underway, it’s time to think about the location of our second city. With Tyr so close to the south and the ocean to our east and west, north is our best option. The resources in the immediate vicinity are slim, but there are some hills along the river and coast that will provide a defensible spot as we expand further. Plus there’s some nice fish there that should help the settlers remain well fed.

2600 BC, Turn 35:
Mr. Pointy, in two bruising attempts, dispatched the first horde and turned his attention to the encampment.

Out settler, unprotected, was unfortuantely stymied just as they were moving out. Yet another horde to the northeast forced their retreat to safe ground. Perhaps we should have prioritized another military unit first? It can’t be helped now and since we lack the funds to purchase a unit outright, we’ll wait on the archer and use Kyoto’s own defenses to keep that horde at bay should they come any closer.

2360 BC, Turn 43:
Curse these barbarians. Not only were we further delayed in breaking ground on a second city, we had to abandon work on our quarry while we widdled away at their forces. Finally dispatched, we completed our first archer and commenced work on a new unit of spears. As our military exploits drive us forward our honor on the field has brought us a new sense of Military Tradition (Social Policy) that I believe will grant our units more experience from their glorious battles.

Speaking of glory in battle, Mr. Pointy found much of it for his men in laying waste to his second barb camp. The attack decimated his ranks however and he was forced to flee into the woods to avoid a third horde. Their time will come as Mr. Pointy is now as efficient fighting in open terrain as he is in the hills.

Out settler now moves forward once again, this time with newly trained Archers to their flank. The archers see still more barbs on the horizon. They’re attempting to move around our men to reach the settlers. They paid severely for this lack of judgment! Our archers are now free to bombard their encampment from a distance. The AI is showing itself to be a bit dicey here. They were very effective at disrupting my settler’s movement and quarry build, but their willingness to ignore my archers in the field in favor of chasing down a settler they won’t be able to reach seems an odd move.

No High Scores

240 BC, Turn 49:
This is just the beginning, as with research into Bronze complete, I’ve directed our best minds to learning to craft Iron. With luck we’ll find a source for it nearby and with it, build a brand of warriors with sticks of the finest sharp metal (Swordsman) that can truly crush our enemies! While we make this progress, the job our new Archers did in dispatching some barbs allowed our Settler the room they needed to found the city of Osaka. I have promoted them and named their chief, Archer I. (Yeah, I had nothing for that name. Sorry.) Archer I, with Rob Lee at his back, encountered still more barb units. This time a unit of barb archers! Though we’ve not before seen barb units so advanced, they could not hope to match our strength. Archer I kept them distracted while our nearly trained unit of spears cricled around and dispatched it and, a turn later, their camp with them. As if this were not enough glory, they discovered still more ruins and in them, new and better pointy sticks that we have dubbed, Pikes. This mighty force has great things ahead of it I am sure.

It seems our citizens at home were less than thrilled with the founding of Osaka as our happiness has slipped under zero. This is not good for the growth of our nation and will have to be remedied before we can expand further.

Mr. Pointy encountered still more ruins while seeking a quiet place to rest and heal. Here he found a princely sum of 70 gold. This is sure to come in handy later.

1480 BC, Turn 63:
We have discovered a source of Iron near Kyoto! This day will mark the beginning of the end for our enemies. I will one day use this discovery to create a legion of Samurai that will shake the world… alas, now is not that time. With this discovery now in hand we must turn our attention to enriching our lives. The people have grown discontent for some reason. Ungrateful filth, I call them, but they must be managed. With that in mind, this whole Pottery thing looks neat and should lead to other important research. It looks increasingly like we’re stuck on a narrow continent with naught but Tyr. They will fall in time, but to expand further we’ll need ships to cross the sea. I’d like to move us in the direction of Astronomy that will let us navigate the globe, but other priorities must come first. Our people were so overjoyed to have discovered the benefits of Marble that I have decided we should also make harvesting a nearby plain of Dyes a priority. To build an effective Plantation for this purpose, we need a way to reliably measure the passage of time. To that end we’ll have to research the concept of the Calendar. We must make sure the people stay happy this time!

Mr. Pointy took his sweet time about it, but his army is restored and he already renews glory for himself dispatching another paltry barb warrior. Pathetic these creatures. With our Pikes now moving north with Robby Lee at their back, I have ordered Mr. Pointy to return south as we prepare to ship off a new settler to expand our empire.

A newly created Scout now journeys to the south, only to stumble into another barb encampment, while Archer I was forced to take out a small barb boat off the coast near Osaka. These beasts come from all sides! I am particularly proud of the scout, whom I have dubbed The Balls, for his crafty strategy of letting Tyre archers weaken the camp before moving to strike, take it out, and reap its treasures for the glory of Japan. This knowing a unit of barb warriors was lurking behind. It would have been a noble sacrifice had they fallen, but then these men of heart and determination managed to survive the counterattack! I am gratified they will live to explore another day and our coffers are richer for it!

Finally, we have abandoned our pursuit of the Honor disciplines. With no foe worthy of the name on this heap of a continent we must focus on our own expansion for a time. It sickens me, but granting more Liberty to our people seems the only path.

775 BC, Turn 84:
With virtually no military options at our disposal -no one has seen a Barb encampment in more than a century- Rob is useless to me. He has nobly sacrificed himself to begin a Golden Age for our people that I can only hope spurs our growth and production that will help us to more quickly expand here. Only once that task is complete and we have mastered travel over water will we be able to free our swords from their scabbards. With that in mind we have founded the new city of Tokyo.

No High Scores

It will take time to make it truly productive and that, combined with an expansion in Kyoto’s population, has made the people unhappy once again. How much easier it would be if I could ignore these needy peasants. When I have acquired the gold needed for a longer lasting truce I will have to bribe Tyre’s friendship and acquire their furs, which should make some of this unruly lot a bit happier. At least our workers finally set up a plantation for the dyes near Kyoto. That has brought us some balance as our Golden Age nears its end.

375 BC Turn 100:
We secured furs from Tyr by offering them a princely sum of gold. It’s distasteful, but it keeps the people happy as our empire grows. Osaka in particular showed me much love for this gift. They had best earn it. A fourth city will soon be necessary as we have discovered multiple sources of horses northwest of Kyoto, which itself has just completed our first great project, the mighty Pyramids. I am told these will improve our construction time and provide us with a fresh worker (New?) for the land. Next up a Great Library that should be… well, pretty damn great, I’m told.

No High Scores

Tyre also gifted us a new warrior. Not very useful, but thanks to our discovery of Optics we can at least send them into nearby waters and see if there isn’t a route off this rock that doesn’t involve crossing the deeper waters. A shame it was to be the last such offering from Tyre. Our bribe has outlived its usefulness to them and they have withdrawn their shipment of Furs. We’ll not be giving these ingrates any more cash for their friendship (we can’t afford to). If they’re not willing to gift us Fur, I suppose we’ll just go and take it. Time to martial the troops and possibly make some more. In the meantime our people will have to settle for being grumpy.

100 Turn Analysis:

Here’s a look at the map at Turn 100:

No High Scores

It’s been a good eight months since I last played a sizable chunk of Civ 5 and the rust shows. As does some rotten luck. It was a valid option to pursue the military angle. When you play on a Continents map, you expect to have at least another civ or two in relatively close proximity. With nobody there but a city-state, that bit came up snake-eyes, although I did see some benefit from exposing the Honor Social Policy tree. In the past I’ve ignored this tree as I didn’t find it all that beneficial (although I infrequently play a warlike civ), but the new(?) bonuses you receive for offing barbarians -culture and experience- makes it a bit more interesting.

Still, there were a lot of wasted turns. I gambled building a settler ahead of a military unit to protect it and the result was a settler who spent multiple turns running around while I waited for Kyoto to produce a new archer unit. I also got very little benefit from my great general; probably should have gone all golden age sooner with him. My real failing, however, has been my mismanagement of empire happiness. You do not, do not, DO NOT, want that number dropping below zero, but I’ve let that happen on multiple occasions now. With no civs to trade with I’m stuck with the limited luxury items on my continent – dyes and marble are about it. That’s not very helpful. Very likely, I should have focused on research projects that would let me manufacture enough happiness to carry me forward until I could locate and trade with other civs. Either that, or I should have been more patient about establishing a second city -choosing a better location- while also waiting to go for city number three. I really could use the nearby horses pictured above, but I don’t dare found another city right now.

At this point I’m not feeling particularly confident about the prospects for this game, but I really wont’ know where I stand until I find more civs. The state of the world reports I have received indicate I’m actually not too far behind.

As for the condition of the game after nearly a year of heavy patching, it’s clear Firaxis has endeavored to completely rebalance the game. The Social Policy trees appear heavily modified to the best of my memory, and certainly some of the weaker policies seem to have a bit more bite. I also encountered a terrain type which I don’t recall seeing before: Atoll. It’s a coastal tile that produces two food, a production, and a commerce. Would love to expand that way, but if I do it won’t be for awhile. It looks like some of the food baring special tiles -not that I have access to any of them- help make the Granary a more useful improvement. Wheat was utterly pointless in the release game, but now a city Granary gives it a much needed food bonus (as it does for bananas and deer). Certainly that’s an improvement. It’s impossible to gauge the AI at this point, but the early returns are decidedly mixed. The barbs never really threatened the survival of any of my military units, but they were effective at pinning back my unit of settlers for several turns, and Tyre did a nice job of using its archer to whittle away at a camp. Hopefully later in the game I’ll be able to get a better sense of whether or not Civ 5 can finally play its own game.

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Todd Brakke

Todd was born in Ann Arbor, with a Michigan helmet in one hand and a mouse in the other. (Never you mind the logistics of this.) He grew, vertically anyway, and is a 20-year publishing veteran as an editor of books on consumer tech and professional development for educators. Because that wasn't enough of a challenge, Todd was a 20-year part-time snob about video games, writing reviews, features, and more for multiple outlets from 1997-2015. Follow him on Twitter @toddsfoolery.

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