This is the second Always War Epic, this time on Prince instead of Noble. While I have a healthy dose of respect for Prince Always War games on normal maps, I'm sorry to say I have no respect whatsoever for Always War games on archipelago maps. Why? Because despite some minor improvements to the AI, the naval AI still sucks. Yes, I know the AI tries to make a landing now from time to time, but that is only remotely dangerous in the post-Astronomy era, when it can send galleons with large stacks on board. In the pre-Astronomy era, and that's when I expect most of the fighting to happen here, it will only send one galley with two units at a time, which can be spotted soon enough and countered easily.
The real challenge should be that the "no city razing" option is set! That means I have to keep each and every single city I capture, regardless of location. This should do interesting things to our economy... Then there's the rule about not being allowed to build wonders without having access to their respective production doublers. To make it a bit more challenging, I played this game with the variant rule not to build any wonders, at all. As it turned out we had stones available, so I missed out on the Pyramids and the Hanging Gardens, and later also missed out on building the Colossus when I had copper available. Especially the Colossus and the Pyramids would have been helpful in this game, but I enjoyed the additional challenge of not building them!
The last variant rule was about having a horse unit for each non-horse unit in a stack attacking a city. I saw two fundamental ways of playing this game militarily: Attack early, having a chariot or keshik accompanying each of my axes/swords/maces, or turtling up and beelining to Guilds, then overrun the enemy with knights (yes, I did intend to win this Always War Epic via domination, not via culture or space!). Sooooo has taught us that ultra-early aggression is usually the way to go in Civ 4, and so I decided to see how this will go in this particular variant-game. I played this game again a second time with the knights approach though, which played completely different, but more on that later.
So this was the plan: Assuming we were alone on our island, fill it with cities quickly, guard them only lightly, and send out galleys with units ASAP.
Unfortunately I lost my notes for this game. I still have my screenshots though and can reconstruct the events of the game from memory, but unfortunately I cannot give exact dates for meeting enemies, discovering techs and such. But I don't think this is very important in this game anyway.
There were two huts on the island, the first gave me maps, the second a hefty sum of gold (97, I believe!). I started by building a worker and researching Animal Husbandry, then Agriculture. The worker improved both resources, and as soon as Karakorum had grown to size 2, I started to build a settler. No use in growing more only to work unimproved tiles! I researched Pottery next, so that my cities could work cottages while growing and build granaries while doing so, then Mining and Bronze Working to see if we had metal.
Beshablik was founded in 2410BC, to claim the critical horse resource, plus gems and dyes.
While growing to size 3, Karakorum started to build a granary, then built the next settler once it had grown, now also working a mined hill tile (the only non-resource tile giving you more than 3 food+hammers). It then grew to size 4, then built the last settler for some time to come, working two mined hills now. While my island could hold two more fishing villages, I didn't want to increase my city maintenance costs too much, as I expected to capture some enemy cities soon. Which enemy do I speak of? Have a look here:
There was a red border peeking out under the fog to the northeast! I had researched Iron Working next, as I had no copper and also wanted to chop the jungle at the gems, and to my delight found out I had iron already connected. So after going for sailing and building my first galley, I sent it over to contact Japan. I also brought a small welcome gift, a chariot and a spearman. (Why a spearman, and not an axe or sword? Because one of my cities was constructing a warrior when I discovered Iron Working, which then automatically got switched to a spear since iron made warriors obsolete. )
These two units were intended to be a pillaging party, making sure Toku wouldn't have any copper or iron connected once my swordmen riding on chariots would arrive. Imagine my surprise when I saw this:
Toku had been so busy founding two religions, Hinduism and Judaism, that he failed to protect his holy cities with something better than warriors! So instead of pillaging, I took the opportunity to capture Osaka in 775BC.
I quickly built some swordmen and chariots, and ferried them over. Toku had several weak units hyperactively running around without sense or purpose, so my swords were able to gain some experience by slaying two or three scouts and some warriors, plus an archer trying to reinforce Tokyo which was only defended by warriors as well. Then, after becoming city raider III, one of my swords rode into battle on his chariot and took Tokyo.
Toku's capital was better defended, but with three experienced swords (and chariots, of course), it fell eventually.
This meant the leave of the first AI in 205BC.
In the meantime, I had sent out another galley exploring - not empty of course, but with a welcome gift for any civ I would meet on my way. This had happened to be Peter, in 430BC.
This pillaging stack made sure Peter had no ivory or horses, but unfortunately couldn't reach his copper, as the city of Yaroslavl was in the way. I had to send over another pillaging party to disconnect it.
More galleys were produced, and my invasion forces in ex-Japan were ferried over to Russia.