As we begin the next 100 turns I have four cities isolated on their own continent. I have sent a pair of caravels east and west to figure out what the rest of the map looks like and who’s out there. My economy is producing a passable amount of gold (+14 per turn), I have a +5 for happiness, which gives me some cushion to found a new city (it is, however, bouyed by a pair of trade agreements). My society demographics are fairly poor, ranking no higher than fifth in any category (manufacturing, soldiers, literacy) and dead last in some (population, food, and approval). Over the next 100 turns I hope to improve on those numbers (which I’ve included after the break). I’ll have to if I hope to have any chance of actually winning. This has not been a master’s course in Civ stratEEgery…
Ouch! That’s just embarrassing.
1460 AD, Turn 206:
It’s the dawn of a glorious age. Our easterly caravel has encountered the Germans and Indians who are at war with each other. Washington hates them both, having denounced India and declared war on Germany, which has brought France into the fray. Our buddy Montezuma lays siege to the city-state of Belgrade, which is allied with Nebuchadnezzar. Once I’ve martialed some forces on their continent it may not take much to push Monty to help us end Neb’s paltry existence.
With our discovery of so many new civilizations, it’s time to think again about military growth. To that end I’ve devoted our latest Social Policy efforts into further developing our Honor, by enforcing stricter Discipline among our armies (+10% combat strength for units with friendly units in an adjacent tile). Tokyo is producing our first settler unit in some time. We’ll soon found a new city to the northern edge of our continent where there’s a massive iron deposit (supporting 6 units of iron). We’ll put that to good use. Osaka is now at work on a National Treasury that will help produce deeper gold reserves (+8 gold, +1 culture).
1530 AD, Turn 216:
Germany makes peace with India, but denounced Mongolia, just one of about a dozen foreign policy maneuvers our long list of rivals make on a turn-by-turn basis. From here on out I’ll record only those of clear interest to Japan.
We’ve unlocked machinery and the ability to build crossbows. These units will come in handy since it will still be some time before we can fully utilize our new source of iron. As planned, we completed our new settler and sent them to the continent’s northern reaches where they settled our new city of Satsuma. I immediately ordered a land purchase to its west to access the iron where a worker is already in place to build a mine to harvest it. I also purchased a fishing boat to access the fish resource to Satsuma’s east. Food resources are limited here and I need the city to grow quickly so I can take advantage of the multiple production resources available to it. Soon we’ll get to work on more samurai and perhaps a siege engine or two, although as military production ramps up, our gold output has diminished. We’ll need Osaka to complete that treasury, and soon. It’s still 13 turns out from production.
Monty has officially declared war on Neb, which was inevitable considering their siege of Belgrade. Shortly thereafter Neb asked us for open borders. Ha! With Neb distracted and on the ropes on his western empire, I’ve slowly amassed a force that I hope will be sufficient (barely) to move on his coastal city of Borsippa. It’s tempting to move directly to the capital at Babylon, but it’s too far inland for my caravels to reach via bombardment and without siege engines (damn this lack of iron) it would be both bloody (not a problem) and self-defeating (big problem).
Strangely, despite plenty of cities for plunder and a clear discomfort with so many of our troops roaming within his boarders, Monty had no interest in our contributing to his war effort with Babylon. Ah well, it’s not like we were asking for permission. Our fleet is well positioned to land on Nebuchadnezzar’s coast and commence the slaughter.
1545 AD, Turn 219:
It was a costly landing on the coast as my chief military advisor failed to notice we landed a Pike unit within bombardment range of nearby Nippur. It was lost… as was the advisor’s head. I’m sure it’s around here somewhere. Regardless, our valient fighters pressed on with our samurai bathing in blood and glory as we conquered Borsippa in 15 short years (my, how time flies). We lost another unit of pikes from city bombardment, but even now a replacement speeds its way across the seas. With happiness to spare I elected to annex Borsippa directly into our empire. We’ll do our best to show these backwards troglodytes the way of the Japanese. (It seems Monty is none too pleased with our acquisition. His rating has dropped from Friendly to Neutral.)
1560 AD, Turn 222:
Out newest settler has founded the city of Kagoshima (between Tyre and Kyoto), instantly bringing us access to more dyes. It was founded on top of a dye tile. One of the patches added city placement restrictions that requires cities to be at least four hexes away from each other. Two more dye resources are within easy reach, plus some deer. We have no need of it, of course, but it’s acquisition will provide us with more trading options to help bring in luxury goods to appease a cowardly populace that are uncomfortable with our war across the sea. (To that end we’ve renewed a trade deal with Monty and struck a new one with Washington that brings us cotton, a valuable ingredient in any good kimono.)
Neb’s resources, meanwhile, must surely be stretched thin from his war with Monty. He never sent reinforcements to Borsippa during our siege. Although a unit of Bowmen was seen near Babylon, to the south, they pulled back without attacking. Now they’ve left a unit of their own pikes to guard an isthmus between Borsippa and his city of Nippur. With no hope of overcoming our armies, they sit there, letting our caravels chip away at them, a safe distance from Nippur’s bowman. Folly! The position for the pikes made sense in that any land unit coming through would have to deal with them first, but I wasn’t attacking with land units. He just let the pikes sit there turn after turn as my caravels chipped away at it. This is not a good sign for the AI. Surely seeing his lack of options, Neb offered us generous peace accord that involved a lump sump 150 gold payment, five more gold per turn, silks, and horses. Knowing it would be too much for his foolish pride to bear, I told him Japan would accept his offer if he also turned over Nippur. He declined as I hoped he would. My samurai are not finished with him.
1585 AD, Turn 227:
Washington seems to be winning no friends of late. Not only has Ghandi come to us looking for our aid in a war against him, so has the mighty Genghis Khan. I would gladly have his blood on my sword, but Neb must come first. To that end, our forces near Borsippa have fully healed and we’ve driven off his pikes on the isthmus. Time to press the attack.
I ordered the caravels into striking distance of Nippur, sending a unit of samurai around them to land safely on the city’s northeast side. Pikes lead the way across the isthmus with our other samurai unit behind them as another unit of pikes takes to the lake at the center of this continent. Safe out of range from Nippur, they headed to a beachhead south of the city. We all but surrounded Nippur, with only minimal damage to our forces. Neb tried to counter and break our ranks by focusing on one of our pikes, even bringing a unit of their own pikes from the south to attack at their flank. It nearly worked, but my pikes valiantly fended off the attacks and returned to full health (using a promotion earned from the fighting).
Nippur soon fell. I elected to puppet this city for now as the excess unhappiness would have been too much for our empire to bear without slowing our overall growth. Apparently Monty was so impressed he offered to declare our Friendship to the world. Since I’d rather have him happy with us than not, we agreed to make sure all know of our bro-mance. Evidently this revelation impressed Genghis the great Khan a good deal as he privately voiced his support of our friendship, offering his own friendship to us. I accepted, much to Germany’s chagrin.
Out best minds have also unlocked the secrets of gunpowder. You’d think they had done that when they put cannons on the caravels, but whatever. A new era in Japanese military might beckons!
During this time I also got a report on global happiness and it’s bizarre. Gandhi sits at 52 happiness. Napoleon at 50. Monty at 39, Washington at 23. Only Khan and Neb (12) and Bismark (4) have down to earth levels of happiness. Nobody is in the negative. This is bizarre to me and has been typical of Civ 5 since its release. Here’s a fresh demographic page as well. With two new cities founded and two more conquered, the situation has improved in multiple areas, though coming up dead last in population stings.
1645AD, Turn 239:
Let somebody declare their friendship and suddenly they think they can ask the world of you. Genghis shamefully requested we give him access to our ivory. How pathetic. Still, we have excess and no place to trade it, so I let him have it. He need not know I consider him a filthy beggar.
As we brought in our forces to begin siege of the Babylonian capital, Babylon, Neb foolishly put a newly constructed caravel within range of a pair of my own caravels off the coast of Dur-Kurigalzu. Dur indeed. A few well placed shots through her bow left her barely afloat, yet with opportunity to escape she instead took a pointless potshot at one of our boats. We took damage, but sunk the piddly thing into the depths immediately after. Pathetic.
Sadly, happiness amongst our citizens has become a problem once again. The loads of imported luxury goods no longer do the job it seems. Thank goodness a courthouse is nearly ready in Borsippa. That should buy time for Satsuma to complete it’s colloseum. It’s unlikely those will offset the new unhappiness we’ll see when I send our refreshed armies on Babylon, but I feel we must press on. We now have four units of samurai, a crossbowmen, and a trebuchet to lend to the attack. Since our caravels cannot get in range of Babylon, we’ll need them!
1680 AD, Turn 246:
It was a glorious battle in Babylon. We lost a unit of pikes and samurai in pressing the attack, two other units of samurai were badly bloodied, but in the end the city fell. Truth be told we could not have held the city through to the end of the year. Neb had swords and pikes parked just outside and the occupying samurai were down to their last breath, but Neb surely knew even were he to take it back that it would fall to more reinforcing samurai soon after, so he made no such attempt. We are legion! I asked for terms of peace and he agreed to stuff our coffers to the tune of 326 gold, while pledging 20 more per turn in tribute. This is acceptable. We’ve made our point. And are now stretched thin. Puppeting Babylon is devastating for empire happiness. Taking it down by -I think- 9 full points. Had we annexed it, it was something like 13. OUCH!
1720 AD, Turn 254:
Neb just denounced us. Does this battered fool really not think we’ll come for the ashes of his empire before this is done?
It took way too much effort, but I managed to secure enough trade and build a couple happiness buildings. We’re again just slightly more happy than unhappy. It would not have lasted long, but fortunately our slow-moving culture allowed us to add a new policy to our pursuit of Honor. Now that we’ve established a workable Military Caste each city with a garrison adds a happiness and two culture), we have a stable and growing empire once again. With that done, I have fully annexed Babylon to the empire. Nippur will remain a puppet for the time being.
We’ve also established Fertilization technology that will allow us to produce much more food and spur growth further. I have directed our research towards the invention of the Printing Press. With it I am told we can build grand theaters that will further appease the populace.
Washington, the treacherous cur, not a decade after renewing a vital trade agreement with us, snaked a small city that he calls Houston onto our continent. For now it is of no threat and I cannot afford to squander the luxury goods he supplies, but in time he will regret this boldness!
1780 AD, Turn 266:
Dur-Kurigalzu has fallen to our mighty armies. I had hoped to wait a bit longer to take Nubuchadnezzar’s newest capital, but with Monty pressing his own attacks on Neb’s southern holdings -Akad has fallen to him- I thought it best to stake my claim to his best remaining city. That leaves him with only meager Sippar to call his own; a small, unremarkable city. As the borders are now drawn, I will leave it to Monty to remove it and he wastes no time in moving his forces forward. (And, of course, I lacked the surplus happiness needed to stay above zero after puppeting. Shouldn’t take as long this time, though, to get back above zero.)
Monty’s strategy confuses me. He brings multiple cannon, more than enough, but parks one right outside the city borders where a stronger adversary could wreak havoc upon it. He brings no melee or gunpowder units (canons aside) at all, instead using crossbowmen to assault the city. You cannot conquer even a city such as Sippar with no ground troops to route the stragglers in the streets. All he can do is sit there and pelt the wreckage.
1814 AD, Turn 277:
Our once flourising economy had started to fall upon hard times. Out treasury remained bountiful, but profits dwindled. Fortunately our research into Economics taught us new ways to exploit our commerce generating resources. The gold flows once again!
Monty refuses to bring up ground troops to finish off Sippar. Had I not granted Neb a peace treaty I would have long ago snuck in with a unit of Samurai and taken the city from under the noses of these idiotic Aztecs. Not dreaming that this situation could possibly continue much longer, we waited. And waited. Finally, the peace treaty with Neb expired and still Monty sat outside Sippar’s walls, pelting it relentlessly. Fool. With a unit of riflemen (upgraded from the samurai) embarked at sea right off the border, the very hour the treaty was over I sent them in. Enjoy hell, Nebuchadnezzar.
Sippar is mine now, fully annexed to the empire. This earned a denunciation from America, Germany, and India. What will they do? Bark some more? Seriously. What was Monty thinking? Did he just not want any political penalties from finishing off a civ? Why keep the war alive then? Really, were it not for the needed trade with them I would consider turning in their direction. Unfortunately, I lack the resources to go toe-to-toe with him right now.
1860 AD, Turn 300:
It’s becoming clear that Washington will be our next problem. The guy was always trouble, but between Houston growing a stone’s throw from Satsuma and his having settled the city of Portland on the isle above, not to mention his outrageous trade demands for goods he has plenty of (we could use his whale), I’m about done with him. It’s time to build up again. To that end I have adopted a policy of Professional Armies, that will the see the cost of updating our outdated units cut by a third. Our populace is so thrilled with this idea that any city with a defensive building gets a happiness boost to boot. Finally the masses start to see things my way. The great thing about this trait is that these buildings -walls, castles, etc.- do not cost maintenance. It’s a free, if small, happiness buff without having to pay anything other than a few turns of production time to have it.
300 Turn Summary
The rubber finally starts to meet the road at this point. I started off in fairly miserable position relative to the other empires, but the demographics page by the end of Turn 300 looks much more favorable. Again, this is not a great achievement on Prince difficulty. What it really tells you is the AI is probably not doing a great job of mid-game empire management. Mostly they bicker amongst themselves and with city-states. Ever few turns somebody is declaring war or hate or friendship or peace or something on somebody. It’s truly comical when war and peace are declared because every city-state with some kind of tie to a faction in question comes along for the ride leading to a good dozen or so status updates along the right side of the screen.
Anyway, as you can see here, I still lag significantly behind in population. Given that I’m now second in total land and fourth in crop yield, *if* I can maintain happiness for once, I expect that gap to narrow, although with a full 13 million more citizens, I’m unlikely to catch up with India any time soon. My literacy rank has also improved, indicating that if I can modernize my military, I should have little trouble staking out future conquests. The first step will be kicking Washington of my continent. His lack of willingness to strike a fair trade deal makes him useless to me at this point. I’ll need to check his alliances before I declare, and get some more modern units built (both ground and naval), but once I do it will be interesting to see if he attempts to mount a credible naval invasion. Given the AI behavior so far, I’m not holding my breath.
Speaking of which… how miserable is the AI behavior here? Nebuchadnezzar was in a tough spot. He was focused on the Aztecs when I suddenly swoop around to the other side and dump a bunch of units on him. There’s not much he could do there, but at least three behaviors stood out as being pretty poor.
When I offered peace in exchange for Nippur he needed to take it. He had no way to defend that city. None at all. He needed peace very, very badly and refused. It was a bad deal, to be sure, but still. That doesn’t bother me as much as the way he left that unit of Pikes just sitting there while my caravels whittled it down to almost nothing. If the carvels weren’t there, sure, the placement was sound with a unit of bowmen garrisoned behind it, but he basically just threw those pikes to the wolves for no good reason. Even that, though, fails to compare to the complete ineptitude I saw from Montezuma. Turn after turn after turn he pelted Neb’s final city with cannons and crossbows, refusing to send in a melee unit to take the city. If there’s diplomatic blowback the AI is trying to dodge, then surely the next move is to sue for peace as opposed to pointlessly pelting the city until I had the opportunity to move in with a single unit of rifleman and just take it. He also committed the cardinal sin of putting a canon right on the border of the city he was attacking. No, Nebuchadnezzar could do nothing about it (he had a unit of bowmen garrisoned there), but a civ with a comparable era unit could have done serious damage to that cannon at little cost to itself. Putting ranged units ahead of melee units (or just flat not having melee units at all) has been a real problem with this game from the launch and I’m stunned that it appears to remain an issue.
At this point there’s no conclusion to draw for Civ 5 AI other than that it’s at best weak and at worst incompetent. The empire numbers from the start of this sequence were bizarre too. Ghandi and Napoleon at 50+ happiness? Out of eight civs, no one was negative or even in notable danger of being so (besides me)? I know there’s a social policy that converts excess happiness into culture and maybe they’re pursuing culture victories, but those numbers strike me was way out of whack. Growth in this game is so limited by happiness that it seems to me the game is built to make sure you’re never really safe from seeing happiness go negative. As your population expands unhappiness rises. You combat that with luxury goods and happy buildings like the colloseum and theater. How can the AI possibly get that number into the 50s without some sort of AI-only bonus? (Remember, at Prince difficulty, there should be no production/happy/food bonuses for the AI that’s not also available to the human player.) Am I really that inept or is something really wrong here?
Anyway, despite waning enthusiasm, I aim to finish this game out just to see if I can overcome having spent so much of it tripping on my own feet. It’s still an enjoyable game, and there are numerous points about it I like (one unit per tile, the graphics, road maintenance) but I still have more fun with Civ 4. Still, maybe there will be a few surprises along the way. Tune in next week to find out!