Hooray, the Epics are back! I enjoyed the Epics for Civ 3 a lot, and more than once these games had been very different to what I was used to when playing on my own - which was a Good Thing. This will be no different here, and in fact Epic 1 already was different as it was on epic game speed, something I hadn't tried yet.
Scoring will be fastest finish for each type of victory condition, so my first thoughts were about which victory I should pursue. Given the honorable variant rules, I decided to play a peaceful builder's game and go for a space victory. I guess most games will end this way, so this would give me the biggest sample to compare my game to and hopefully learn something by doing this. The time when I will play in a different, unexpected way and try something weird will come, but not for the first game of a new tournament. Now that the Epics are back again, finally we can compare different strategies with each other directly, beyond anecdotal discussion!
Our starting spot has only two resources and no river, so it's not that great at first glance. But one of these resources is stone, which provides me with the opportunity to try out an early wonder I haven't built in any of my games yet: The Pyramids! So at second glance, I think I like this start.
Our civilization does not start with mysticism, and the lack of a river means also lack of commerce, so I decide not to go for an early religion in this game. Instead, I decide to research all the worker techs first, to get my capital up to speed as fast as possible. To utilize the cow resource, my first research goal thus is Animal Husbandry. Paris starts to build some warriors for scouting in the meantime, while emphasizing growth and commerce to let it grow as fast as possible before I will build my first worker out of it.
My first warrior scout that comes out of Paris explores his first tribal village in 3720BC, and gets extremely lucky...
Wow, I've never received such an advanced tech from a hut before!
My scouts also make contact with Montezuma, Genghis, Gandhi, Alexander and Washington, Genghis being my direct neighbour east of me. Having Genghis, an aggressive, neurotic and untrustworthy leader, so near to me might make this game quite interesting!
After Paris had produced three warriors, it has grown to size three and I build my first worker, then another warrior. After that, I start to build the Pyramids for six turns, to let Paris grow to size four, then switch it to building a settler. When Animal Husbandry is discovered, I research Mining and Masonry to utilize the stone resource, and Bronze Working after that to help building settlers and the Pyramids by chopping some forests. After that, I felt it was about time to expect barbarian archers to show up, so Hunting and Archery was next, so I could build archers myself to counter them.
As it turned out, I would have been able to go after an early religion after all. Hinduism got founded as late as 1475BC! But seeing how my worker was able to improve the mediocre lands around my capital instead, I didn't regret my decision to research the worker techs.
My numerous scouting warriors (of which I had lost one already to some lions) had revealed that we were located on a rather large peninsula, with the Mongols at the (wide) bridge to the rest of the Pangea. This particular land layout gave me a great opportunity to utilize one of our civ traits in this game! We are creative, which means newly founded cities would have a border expansion rather quick, and there was a fresh-water lake near the land bridge to the rest of the landmass that just begged to have a city founded there. Orleans was built there in 1200BC. Why is being creative so important in this case? Because after Orlean's borders had expanded, they merged with the cultural borders from Paris, and now the entrance to "my" peninsula was completely blocked! I had writing already thanks to the tribal village, and every leader and their sister bugged me every few turns to sign an open borders agreement - normally, I'd happily agree, to improve relations, but not this time! By denying open borders to my adversaries, I had the whole peninsula for myself to settle, at least until galleys would appear.
While building my second settler in Paris, a jungle grew there, and a second one later as well. That was too bad - I had hoped a new forest would grow there instead, because I had dared to chop only one of the four forest tiles to speed up settler building, as the three remaining forests provided me with a +1 health bonus I was not willing to sacrifice. Unfortunately, there were more jungle than forest tiles, so that had to be expected.
Lyons was founded west of Paris in 1050BC, then I built some more units before continuing to build the Pyramids.
I had built a lot more warriors in the beginning than I am used to, but you can see in the screenshot why I did that: I used them as sentries on my peninsula, to prevent barbarian cities to appear. I didn't want to be slowed down by having to build a heavy military to capture these, and I also did not want to be forced to keep cities in spots I didn't like! I still had some uncovered dark spots left where the occasional barbarian unit would appear, but at least no cities sprung into existance during my watch.
You can also see that Orleans is building a library, to fight off the culture from the Mongolian capital, while Lyons is building a barracks to serve as my military units producer for some time. Now that I had sealed off and secured "my" peninsula with sentries, I had the time to build the Pyramids in Paris before founding more cities. I completed them in 140BC.
The Pyramids allowed me to switch the government civic to representation, which provides +3 research per specialist and +3 happiness in your largest five cities. The extra research was useless of course as I didn't have any specialists yet. But the extra happiness is huge in the beginning! It allows your cities to grow a lot larger than they normally would be able to, meaning more hammers and beakers.
Meanwhile, I had researched Iron Working, to deal with all the jungle around us, and was delighted to see that we had a source of iron at Paris. After that, I started to research Alphabet, to be able to trade with the other civs. I found another city, Rheims, and make the same mistake I always do in the initial land-grab phase of the game: I keep only a very small military force around, as my cities are busy building settlers, escorts and workers.
Well, neglecting military while Genghis is hanging around as your neighbour is a sure ticket for trouble, as I should have known.
Not only did he sense that I was weak at the moment, he probably was also annoyed by the ever-expanding borders of Orleans... He advanced with one axeman upon the city, but it died against the fortified archer defending it. I also discovered another difference between Epic game speed and Normal: Normally (), if someone declares war on me while I'm unprepared for this, I rely on my good skills at defending my cities with few units for several turns, while my whole empire gets switched to military to strike back later. Now I had to discover that building up a military force from scratch takes a lot more time than I'm used to, meaning my cardboard cutouts would have to hold out much longer!
What units did I have? Several warriors on sentry to guard against barbarians which I refused to wake up, and four archers for my four cities. Uh oh...
But Genghis seemed to have only harassment in mind, as no more units showed up from him for some time. So I finished the settler in Paris, and then built some axemen and swordmen to counter whatever he might throw at me later. He sent out a galley with an archer and a spearman around the peninsula, probably towards Lyons which had no garrison at the moment.
The problem was that an archer/settler pair of mine had planned to found another city there just now, to claim the second iron - which I had now to hold off because of that galley... In 350AD, Genghis was willing to talk to me again, but wouldn't accept a straight peace deal yet, so I waited. Now that I had some axes and swords of my own, I no longer feared him. I never planned to strike back at him though, even though the honorable rules allowed that - I had decided to constrain myself to the peninsula, and not expand any further. That would be more than sufficient to launch the spaceship first, and I hope other players will expand more, to see and compare what war and empire size do to research speed and finish date.
Finally, a Mongolian axeman/archer pair emerged from the endless jungles around our borders into the open so that I could kill them, and now Genghis accepted a straight peace deal. How long it would last I did not know, but the next thing that happened was that Buddhism spread to Paris, and Genghis converted to Hinduism...