Now that I had decided who my first enemy would be (China), that also made the decision who my friends should be easier. America had been at war with China already (they had made peace again), so I decided I could trade with Washington after all (again, please ignore Washington's dialog line here; he agreed to the trade shown).
And when Cyrus showed up and asked me to cancel my deals with Qin Shi Huang, I happily agreed!
It took some time to build my army though. When I discovered feudalism in 840AD, I adopted vassalage so that my units would start with some XP when built. Then, in 1030AD, I was finally ready to send my praetorians into action!
Declaring war slightly upset Cyrus and Bismarck, but I couldn't help that. I gifted pigs to Washington to cultivate our friendship, but then put my full concentration on the war with China. Qin had a longbow with city garrison III defending Shanghai, which was a tough nut to crack!
So after removing the city's defenses with bombardements, I decided to send in two catapults to soften up the garrison. One catapult died, the other managed to retreat, and both did some collateral damage - but the city garrison III longbow had still a healthy amount of hitpoints. I decided to promote a war elephant with flanking I, hoping he would be able to retreat, and sent him in - he died. But he had done enough damage so that my city raider praetorians were now able to take the city with no further losses.
My stack moved into the city to heal, and to see what Qin had to offer as a counter-attack. Not much came - he sent some units who tried to pillage, but my praetorians got rid of them easily. The mountains and valleys made for some good choke points to defend - a combat I praetorian fortified on a hill can be quite an obstacle for a Chinese spearman to overcome. He also sent some catapults against my offensive stack, but they only managed to slow me down, not stop me. In 1140AD, I took Xian.
Although I had only taken two cities, I felt I had achieved my goals for this war already. I had protected my core, gained some valuable resources, and had an easier-to-defend border now. The next Chinese cities were far away and not easy to reach, so I made peace with China. Quin even paid me 160 gold and 3 gold per turn for it.
In fact, I somehow hoped to make Qin forget that I had attacked him and become friend with him again. During the war, the first religion had finally managed to spread into my empire, Hinduism. Both Bismarck and Washington, which I wanted to have as allies, were Hindu as well, and Qin was Hindu too. So I converted to Hinduism, hoping to improve relations with these three. The only downside was that Cyrus was Taoist, but we had open borders and he was pleased with me, which should give me enough time to convert him before relations would worsen too much.
Of course, relations with France would plummet as well - not only were my cultural borders pressing Marseilles, he was Taoist to boot. I also had cancelled my deals with Napoleon when Washington had asked for this earlier, which didn't help either. But Marseilles was the obvious target for my next war, and I wanted to fight another one before my praetorians would become obsolete anyway, so I didn't care.
Before I was able to build any missionaries, Cyrus converted to Hinduism on its own. Talk about luck! China, on the other hand, converted to Confucianism, and because I had no open borders with them, I was not able to convert them back. So instead of becoming friends again, I guess there would be another war sooner or later...
In 1150AD, I discovered Guilds. In a classic moment of mine, I had thought this would be nice to have to build knights. Great idea in theory - in practice though, I had no horses. Well, at least it made for some nice trade material.
I spent some time building infrastructure like temples and monasteries, then switched back to military before my praetorians would become obsolete. Either Napoleon was smelling my attack coming, he planned an attack himself, or he wanted to protect Marseille from flipping - at least he was amassing troops in the city I was planning to attack!
His troops were well-promoted because he had fought against America recently, but I declared war anyway in 1370AD. I also did the following diplomatic coup:
This served two purposes: First, I had no real idea how large Napoleon's army really was, and he felt more dangerous than China. Second, fighting the same enemy would strengthen my relationship with Bismarck. Who said the new Civ 4 diplo model wasn't fun?
Oh, and who said the AIs would play too peaceful?
That happened only one turn after I had declared war on France. But what Monte hadn't really thought about was that he had no open border agreement with Bismarck or Cyrus, which made it impossible for him to reach me. Can you say phony war? The only thing I feared that he might bribe someone else to join him in the war against me...
While my catapults bombarded Marseilles, Napoleon sent his catapults against my stack, doing some collateral damage. I had seen this coming though, and hadn't yet promoted most of my units. I did that know for some instant healing, waited another turn to heal some more, then attacked. First, I sent in two suicide catapults - one withdrew, one died. Then, I promoted a war elephant to flanking II and sent him in, but again he died - this whole flanking idea might not be so great after all, maybe combat II would have been better...
Anyway, next up was a city raider III praetorian, which killed a defending longbow. Another praet, city raider II this time, killed a second longbow. Now a maceman would defend, and because macemen have +50% against melee units, praetorians are not a good choice to attack them. Instead, I sent in a city raider II maceman of myself, which won as well! The rest of the city garrison, three horse archers, a spearman and two catapults, were mopped up easily by the rest of my units, and Marseilles was mine!
Meanwhile, to make things a bit more complicated, Washington converted to Confucianism! Damn. So despite being at war, I dedicated one city to building Hindu missionaries to convert him back (which I eventually succeeded in, although it took until 1520AD). Additionally, Shanghai suffered from a Chinese revolt two times, which prevented it from completing some cultural buildings to expand its borders. I gathered several obsolete units in the city to prevent it from flipping back to China, and increased my cultural spending to build up culture there.
But let's get back to the war. After regrouping, healing, and killing some French units that tried to pillage my lands, my stack advanced on Lyons next. Bismarck and I had some nice co-op going on here: His stack had already eliminated the French unit that had guarded the iron, and then disconnected it, and then he weakened Lyon's garrison (a pikeman and two longbows) considerably so I didn't need to send in my catapults. Thanks Bismarck!
Again, I sent in a flanking II war elephant first, hoping it would retreat after doing some damage, and again it died. After that, I took Lyons with no further losses, though.