Uh oh. Always War! I knew it had to come sooner or later... I can't say I'm prepared very well for this, as I've only played three or four AW games with Civ 4 so far, none to completion, and none on a pangea map. But I'm always more motivated to play and finish a Realms Beyond Epic, so I was looking forward to this game! It was "only" on Noble level and with no tech trading, so I should be able to survive...or so I hope.
This event is not scored, surviving and winning is more than enough reward for something as gruelling as an Always War game. But there would be special honorable mentions to the player who would be the first to capture an enemy city, the first with a Panzer victory, and some more. I decided not to care about these! With almost no AW experience, I will focus on victory alone. I will mention the dates, but won't gear my gameplay towards these goals.
I also decided to play this game with two additional rules. First, I will not do early harassment, as some AW players love to do. Early harassment means that you send an archer to each of the AI's capitals and fortify him on a nearby hill. The AI is unable to deal with that situation and will hide its initial worker in the city and will only build units, trying to get rid of that archer who is nearly impossible to kill. This way, the AIs will be unable to develop and expand their empires for a long time, making the game a lot easier. I intend not to use this exploit.
Second, I will not do pillage'n'park. This means I will not send a small stack (let's say, 2 axes, a spear and a medic) to the enemy's copper/iron resource, pillage it, and fortify. In fact, I will play without pillaging altogether! Pillage and pillage'n'park are perfectly valid strategies and no exploits, but this being on Noble only and with tech trading disabled, I'd like to capture as much of the AW atmosphere as possible. I think letting the AIs produce their best units might be more fun.
So let the carnage begin!
The start looked great: Two food resources, flood plains, hills, a river...moving the scout revealed nothing new, so I founded Berlin on the starting spot. Normally, I would start to build a worker right out of the gate - but this was Always War, and I had no idea how near or far my enemies were! Since our initial scout doesn't make for a good garrison unit, I started to build a warrior. But since I'm no fan of warriors and would probably need something better soon, I immediately started to research Archery. I didn't intent to lose by conquest in 3000BC...
Now what to do with the scout? There are Always War games where you want to delay contact as long as possible, so that you will have enough time to get a solid defense up. But I didn't expect Noble AIs to mount any meaningful offense against my capital so early, so I decided to scout aggressively to get an idea of the land layout for later conquering missions.
As it turned out, Berlin was on the east side of the continent, nicely positioned so that we would have only one, albeit large frontline to defend. No choke to block off the enemy easily, but at least this won't be a war with several different fronts. Very nice.
Archery came in in 3730BC, and now I researched some worker techs: Agriculture and Animal Husbandry for the resources, the Wheel and Pottery to put some cottages onto the flood plains, then Bronze Working to see where the metal is. After I saw how far from the enemies we were, I produced a worker after the warrior immediately, and only then my first archer.
Buddhism got founded in a distant land in 3670BC, and it would later turn out it was Isabella who founded it. In 3460BC, I met my first opponent: Gandhi! A couple of turns later, he founded Hinduism. I ignored religion for now, as I think improving my lands was more important.
In 2680BC, I met Peter. Then, my scout found something strange:
Huh? I thought the game was supposed to have no goody huts? Looks like the sponsor forgot to remove one... It only gave me a couple of gold pieces, though.
More opponents were found: Alex, Toku, Saladin, and Roosevelt. Some of their warriors had the opportunity to attack my scout, but apparently they were internally flagged to be on a scouting mission and ignored him. That way, my scout was able to map out an amazingly large part of the continent before he finally died in 1450BC, when I accidently moved him directly adjacent to an enemy capital full of archers.
After Berlin finished the worker, I built three archers, then a settler. I positioned the archers on hills some distance away from Berlin, to look out for and kill enemy scouting units, and to have an early warning in case a first attack stack would appear. Several scouts and lone warriors fell victim to my archers, like one of Saladin's warriors in this shot.
Thanks to the archers, the lands around Berlin were safe for my worker to improve. After irrigating the wheat and putting a pasture on the cows, he started to construct cottages on the flood plains, to speed up my early research, and then mined the hills. I expected some pillage or attack stacks to show up sooner or later, so when my first settler was completed, I decided to found my second city in a forward position to serve as a lightning rod against enemy attacks and to protect my cottages. As it turned out, there happened to be copper as well!
As you can see, the game suggested other sites for me to settle, but I ignored the blue circles and settled on the hill instead. That way, my second city got an extra hammer per turn, and extra protection (it's really hard to beat a fortified, city garrison archer in a city on a hill in BC times!). And so Hamburg got founded in 2020BC. Still no enemy stacks could be seen, so I produced a second settler next and founded Munich in 1630BC. Instead of founding it nearby, claiming some of the many resources around Berlin and saving city distance costs, I decided to be more bold, and settled even farther away than Hamburg!
With these two cities, I had claimed a lot of land to be backfilled later on. The rationale behind this decision was that it's a lot easier to found cities than to capture them, so now I could found a lot of cities unhindered between Hamburg/Munich and Berlin, and had to start to capture enemy cities only much later than if I had founded my next cities closer to Berlin. The dangerous downside of course was that this far-away city would be hard to defend, and since it had not been founded on a hill, I sent two archers to garrison it right away, and fortified a third one between Hamburg and Munich to serve as zone defense.
I was not really worried, though: My workers (two now) quickly connected copper, and then I built two axemen, one to defend each border city, and I felt secure. But instead of backfilling my lands now, I had other plans... maybe I'm a bit cocky here, but hey, this is only Noble! I would need to build a lot of settlers and garrison units, so my first offensive wouldn't be started for a long time. Wouldn't it be nice if I could start to capture AI cities with something better than axemen...? So after Bronze Working, I researched Mysticism, Meditation, and Priesthood next, then started to research Code of Laws, boosted by a library in Berlin. It should be clear where this is heading now...
But first, the game handed me a freebie.
Wow, "popped another one" in 1600BC! A happiness resource so early is very powerful! One extra happiness (two with a forge!) can make quite a difference in the early game. Others who do not get something like this will have quite a disadvantage here! I don't think I like this random resource thing in a tournament setting.
But back to my research and building plan. Perfectly timed, my research on Code of Laws completed...
...on the same turn Berlin finished the Oracle.
A Civil Service slingshot in an Always War game! Don't try this on higher levels of difficulty. So in 940BC, I adopted Bureaucracy and my capital production and beaker output exploded. This had only been possible because nearly no AI units had shown up, let alone any stacks. It felt a bit strange: One axe per city were able to hold the frontline easily.
Next, I researched Iron Working and found that we had a source of iron right at Berlin, which increased its production capacity even more. Then, Polytheism, Monotheism, Alphabet and Literature were researched. While Hamburg was busy producing archers and settlers to found more cities, Berlin started to build the Pyramids. I had also hired two scientist specialists there, to get an early great scientist, which appeared in 730BC.
Bureaucracy and an Academy in 730BC does wonders to your research rate! It was insane. Completing the Pyramids and adopting Representation increased it even more, as did completion of another wonder a bit later:
Two free scientists, who produced an extra 3 beakers per turn thanks to Representation...hard to believe this was no peaceful builder's game, but was supposed to be Always War. Sorry that I don't have any exciting battles to report about, but there weren't any. An occasional archer or chariot would appear, and got easily dispatched by my axemen or spears. The only "Stack of Doom" I had seen so far were three Arabian warriors. I'm scared...not.
Around 1AD, I had settled all the lands I wanted to occupy peacefully.
Note the lack of enemy units in that screenshot...I have no idea what the AIs were doing. And also note that I did not produce a single unit at that time!
I could have easily settled more densely, cramming in more cities. For example, another city on the southeastern edge on my lands, at the horses, would have been possible, or a fishing village north of Hamburg. But I expected to gain more cities soon, and didn't want to be slowed down by city maintenance. So while I was researching Currency, then Machinery and Construction, my cities produced infrastructure to prepare for my upcoming offense.
Oh, and I had played the expansion phase directly after playing a turnset in the RB21 - No Promotions succession game, where we don't build barracks because we are not allowed to promote any of our units. The result for this game? I had produced all my garrison archers in a city without barracks! That meant all my cities were defended by unpromoted archers! This could mean a lot of trouble later on if the AIs managed to make a landing at my backline cities!