I had won a space race and a cultural victory on Monarch already, and had played some more Monarch games to a winning position, getting some experience in warfare. So the next step for me was to up the challenge a bit, and move to Emperor!
Additionally, I really like the map scripts that come with the game. Most people still play on continents or pangea, some on archipelago, which of course is fine - but I have had so many of these games in Civ 3 that I wanted to take a look at the more innovative map types instead. The Highlands map looked very interesting and quite hard too, so I chose that for my first emperor game, with ridgeline peaks and small lakes. I also decided to drink single malt whisky while playing, thinking this would fit the theme nicely, but I'm not sure if that increased difficulty even more or only helped me thinking clearer...
Oh, and of course the Highlands are rough lands full of savage tribes, so I set the barbarians to raging. While the AIs on Emperor have a lot of extra starting units like archers to fight them, I had not, so that could get interesting.
Space race and cultural victory were disabled. I cannot imagine a good launching location for a spaceship anywhere in the Highlands, or can you? And culture...well, I dearly love drinking single malt and listening to traditional pipe music, but apart from that... But the clans of the Highlands sure love to fight, so conquest and domination were enabled. Also, if one leader would be able to unite the clans, more power to him! Diplomatic victory was enabled too, although given my plans for this game (war! war! and more war!), that victory condition was probably only an option for my rivals. Or will the clans of the Highlands honour a true warmonger in the end...?
Additionally, I wanted a lot of foes to fight, so I put 8 civs (more than standard) on the small Highlands map. "Small" is not really small here by the way, because there are no oceans, but I also wanted to see how I would fare in the initial land-grab phase under pressure of raging barbarians and against a higher-than-usual number of Emperor civs. To make all this at least a bit easier for me though, I chose to be Julius Caesar of Rome, who looks like to have a very nice unique unit, the strength 8 praetorian.
My starting position had pigs and spices only which was not great, considering that spices will only be useful once you have the calendar tech. But the mixture of tiles was nice: Two floodplains on a river, some flat grasslands, and several hills and forests for hammers. I produced two warriors: One for scouting, and one for military police duty in Rome. To utilize the pig resource I needed Animal Husbandry, so I started to research Hunting. The game actually recommended researching the alternative prerequisite tech, Agriculture, but Hunting was cheaper, and I planned to build cottages instead of irrigation in the beginning anyway.
You can also see two tribal villages in the screenshot, and there was another one not far away. The second village gave me some gold, but the other two...
Now that is some good luck!
My scouts quickly made contact with Napoleon west of me, who can be quite an annoying and aggressive neighbour. Then I met Cyrus, Washington and Isabella, then found Qin Shi Huang to the south of me. After having built the two warriors, I slipped in four turns towards building a barracks in Rome to let it grow to size three, then switched to building a worker. Meanwhile, I researched most of the worker techs and archery, then went for writing and alphabet. After the worker was built, I had to produce archers immediately before completing the barracks, because barbarians began to stream towards my city already! I used the fact that workers have two moves and that tiles "remember" how many turns of building an improvement have already been invested to my full advantage. Whenever a barbarian was threatening my worker and I couldn't take the barbarian out safely, I would interrupt the worker in his task, send him to a safe tile, and let him continue building whatever improvement I wanted to have there. That way, I was able to build a pasture, roads, and cottages eventually, all between wandering barbarian warriors and archers. I also had to fortify my archers on some tiles to prevent them from being pillaged, and I was so busy building more archers that I was not able to produce a settler (plus escort) for some time. Raging barbs indeed!
Writing came in in 1960BC, and I signed an open borders agreement with everyone I knew except with Washington, who was friend to nobody at that time, and I didn't want to risk getting upsetting anyone.
I had a settler and two archers for escort ready finally, but had some problems bringing the settler to his destination safely! I lost one archer on the way, and the other one got wounded as well. But Antium was founded nonetheless in 1720BC.
Note how I had fortified archers on the pig resource and the cottage for protection, and they already had gained some xp. I had time now to finish the barracks in Rome. Note also how close the Chinese borders are to the south - all this fighting against the barbarians had cost me a lot of time, and it looks like I'll end up getting fewer cities than my opponents. But hey, I wanted to wage war a lot anyway...
First demands from AIs came in. Napoleon wanted me to cancel my deals with Cyrus, and Isabella asked me to do the same with the Chinese. I refused both times because I didn't know yet who I would be able to befriend later. In 1200BC, alphabet came in and as always, I was first to the tech which gave me the opportunity to catch up tech-wise via some trading. But with whom should I trade? I took a look the diplo web.
My ideal trading partner would be Bismarck, as he was liked by everyone. Unfortunately, he refused to trade anything away yet, so I traded with China and France instead. They both were my neighbours with some potential for "close borders" tension later on, so doing some trades to counter this would be nice.
Don't be confused by the "...not acceptable" line Qin is saying in the shot; he accepted the proposed. I had tried to haggle a bit before...
Some centuries later, a second settler escorted by two archers left Rome. But at the same time, barbarian axemen were showing up!
My settler had to take a longer but safer route, and lost one of his escorts on his way as well. My other archers tried to position themselves in forests to increase their odds against the axemen, but I lost quite a few. Fortunately, two of my archers had received enough experience so I could give them the shock promotion, which together with combat I and forests and a fortify bonus helped a lot. In 600BC, Cumae was founded, while Rome started to produce praetorians.
On the same year, China and America went to war with each other, and some years later I met Montezuma who already was at war with Isabella! Oh, and then Bismarck declared on Montezuma as well. Er...who said all the AIs would be peaceful builders and wouldn't ever declare on each other? During all this mess, Napoleon demanded alphabet from me, and I caved in - all these wars showed me how willing these emperor AIs were to go at war so early, and I wasn't prepared yet. But I shall remember this...
I also made another trade, with Cyrus this time who was another neighbour of mine.
Neapolis, my fourth city, was founded in 75BC. I had only four cities, but already couldn't expand west, south, or east anylonger. North of Rome there still were some lands to settle, but without resources, and because my economy couldn't support more cities at the moment anyway, I decided to build libraries and workers, then praetorians for some time, and when my economy would be able to support more cities, take those by force.
These are the highlands! Some rough folk in rough terrain.
I built the great library in 200AD in Antium, which should secure my borders against my French neighbours there (but also spark some tension...). America made peace with China, and it was time to think about whom to ally with, and whom to attack first. Qin was already slightly annoyed with me because of our close borders; also, he had some nice cities south of me with marble, copper, incense... While I had close borders with other nations as well, it made sense for me to attack China first from a strategical point of view, because the shape of my empire would be better suited to defend it. In fact, as can be seen in the screenshot, the layout of the lands with the mountains and lakes made Neapolis hard to defend in case China would ever decide to attack me! Taking Shanghai would make unit logistics a lot easier for me.
Marseilles would be another nice target, but advancing beyond Marseilles after taking it would be a major headache logistically, so that would have to wait.