Now that the first scoring date had been reached, it was about time to found more cities. Even prior to 5AD, it was clear that some cities would not be able to grow another time before population would be measured, so as you can see in the screenshot from 5AD, I had already switched projects to libraries, settlers and workers. I actually continued to produce settlers and workers for quite a while, and founded lots of cities, grabbing some important resources while doing so: Iron, bananas, incense, silks, marble, and gems. To be able to make use of most of them, I researched Calendar after Currency. Then, I beelined to Civil Service, to spread irrigation to all cities to let them grow for the 1500AD mark.
I had founded a city far away near the French border to grab a gem resource, only to get one for free a few turns later.
I don't really want to complain, but I would have preferred a gold or silver resource at this point. Gems, gold and silver are worth two happy faces with forges, so in this scenario this is quite powerful! Unfortunately, Louis had snatched away a dyes resource quite early, another potential two-happy resource with theatres. Happiness resources were so important because for the 1500AD scoring mark, I figured I couldn't afford to pay for gazillions of military police units again, so I had to use other means to keep my citizens happy. I already had a lot fewer cottages than usual because I irrigated so much, so my research rate was not very impressive anyway. Additionally having to pay for 10+ garrison units per city might cost me victory, no sense in that!
One way of keeping up was trading, of course. It does not happen very often that an AI discovers Alphabet before I do, but in this game I had other priorities.
In the original Epic 3, T-hawk had concentrated on building the wonder Longevity before 1500AD, and had won the competition. Something like Longevity was no longer in the game though, so I did not have many options of how to accelerate the growth of my population in the empire. Of course there is still a wonder that grants you an extra point of population in each city, the Hanging Gardens! This is a powerful wonder in this game, as it also grants a health bonus. Alas, I waited too long before starting it, and it got built by a different civilization in 1070AD. That went not so well.
So...there was not much left I could do to increase my population until 1500AD, other than founding more cities, building more workers and making sure to irrigate a lot. Without a wonder like Longevity, and being too stupid to start the Hanging Gardens in time, all I could do was to make sure to import luxuries to fight happiness and health problems, and play a good builder's game, right?
Nah, wrong. If you face a problem in Civ 4, there's one answer that fits in almost all cases, one solution that works almost all the time. I give you a hint with the following screenshot from 1250AD:
As you can see, I had 12 cities now, had irrigated a lot, and had connected some luxuries as well. All of my new cities were building infrastructure, but the production of my core cities might give you a hint how I planned to accelerate my growth curve. Another hint can be seen right in the middle of the shot, halfway between Huamanga and Chartres. And in case it's too small for you to identify, let me show you a close-up:
What better way is there to get 6-10 additional pop points every 6-7 turns than to steal them from your neighbour? Louis, I really like your people. Friendly, productive, happy...in fact, I like them so much, please give me some!
Sure, he had longbows, but that was nothing a healthy amount of suicide catapults and some experienced macemen couldn't handle, especially considering that I had founded my northern city in such a way that the French empire was divided in half, so Louis had some problems bringing in reinforcements. Oh, and Louis, now that you no longer supply us with Dyes, do you mind if I take your source?
So, that makes an additional size 5 and a size 7 city for my empire. *munch* *munch* I think his cities to the east are the newest and thus probably not yet well-developed, so I decided to continue my conquest right into Louis' heartlands in the north. Next up Lyons fell, a size 13(!) city, then my forces captured Orleans in 1358AD.
I did not meet much resistance other than small stacks of axes and longbows, which I lured out into the open and then slaughtered with my macemen. I burnt two catapults per city on average to soften up its defenders so my macemen could gather city raider promotions - catapults were easy to replace, and my main forces could hurry on to the next city that way. It was a race against time now: Every new city I captured had to undergo several turns of resistance, and I was not sure if a city under resistance would count for your population! So when my advance stack arrived at Paris in 1376AD, I decided that the French capital city should be the last city I would take in this war, as more cities wouldn't come out of resistance in time before 1500AD anyway.
Paris fell in 1394AD, and it contained the Great Lighthouse, the Great Library, and an Academy! Nice. Then, Louis gave me Archery, Literature, his world map (I had discovered Paper by now), 230 gold and 3 gold per turn for peace. Unfortunately, he couldn't be persuaded to part with some more useful tech like Feudalism, or Compass...