This game is a reprise from the legendary Civ 3 Gauntlet event, where every player except one lost the game. Even very good players like Sirian, Sulla and T-hawk lost or retired, and only Urugharak won the game with some very clever moves, making the best out of a bleak starting position. Of course I lost that game too, so it's time for a revenge, eh?
There's a huge difference to the original game design, though: It's not on Deity, but "only" on Emperor level. The difficulty is supposed to come from the map layout and starting position, and not from some insane economic boni to the AIs. For this, I like to thank Sulla! For me, Deity in Civ IV is not fun, not at all.
Since there's no scoring involved with this game, I skipped all pre-game thoughts and jumped right in - let's take a look what hole the sponsor has put us into!
The starting position doesn't look that bad in fact - not stellar, but with four immediately useable resources plus the silver resource for extra happiness after two border expansions it is in fact better than some other starting positions I've seen. I go worker first and research Animal Husbandry and Mining to give my worker something to do. The scout finds that the lands around us are quite barren, and that we are on a middle-sized landmass together with Asoka and Huayna, who of course have better lands to live in (otherwise this wouldn't have been called "Gauntlet", right? ). My scout manages to get a tech from a hut, but it was only Fishing which isn't especially useful in this situation.
After Mining, I research Bronze Working next. This was a no-brainer: Seeing the lands around us, consisting mostly of ice, tundra and plains tiles, it was clear that the only way out of this hole would be early aggression. Also, we were surrounded by lots of otherwise useless forests, so the ability to chop those would come in handy, too. Unfortunately, I forgot to take an overview shot of our barren lands from that time, sorry!
As it turned out (and as I had expected), we had no copper in immediate range, only a source northwest of our capital in a crappy location, and down in the south in an even crappier spot. So to counter the barbarians, I researched Archery next, then Pottery to cottage the few precious grassland tiles we had, and then Iron Working to see if we (and the enemy) had iron available.
I needed the copper for early aggression, so had no choice to found a crappy city near the northwestern copper in 2230BC. Founding more cities would just be a waste of time and resources, so I used the nice 5 commerce from the improved furs to boost my research towards Iron Working while waiting for the copper to be connected.
Meanwhile, I fought off barbs and decided I could use a medic in the upcoming war, but didn't want to waste an expensive axe (which could have city raider, shock or cover instead) for that job, so sent out my inital warrior to bait barbs.
And voila! I had my medic. I love to use my initial warrior for that, and often have that warrior accompanying even modern stacks much later in the game.
In 1360BC, finally copper was connected and I started to produce axes. Iron Working showed we had no iron either, but that didn't really matter. While building up my army, hurried by numerous forest chops, I went for Writing and Alphabet next, hoping to trade with the AI I wouldn't invade. I had considerable luck in my game: All three early religions had been founded on our continent, and Asoka and Huayna had converted to different religions! That meant I could attack one of them and keep the other friendly, which was nice.
At this point in time, I finally remembered to take a picture of our empire, showing my two cities (well, one and a half might be more accurate...note Copper Colony's size) and my preparations for war.
In 775BC, I was ready and declared war - on Asoka. Asoka normally has much fewer troops than Huanya, so he should be an easier target. Additionally, Delhi looked juicy!
I lost 3 CRII axemen, but took Delhi. Next up was Bombay.
Oh man, Asoka is really a push-over. Two regular archers? *yawn* I look forward to Beyond the Sword, where the AI is reported to defend better. At least he had built walls on the same turn I advanced on the city - I think this is the first time I faced walls in a more or less meaningful way - but the city fell nonetheless in 640BC. Oh, and seeing that Bombay had ivory, I already could see how the game would go on later...
Next up was Calcutta, north of Delhi, taken by reinforcements walking by on their way from the capital to Delhi.
Huayna had declared war on Asoka too, by the way, probably inspired by my easy gains. Unit cost and war weariness were eating me now, and I had to shut down science and configure my cities for max commerce, but didn't want to stop yet. In 400BC, I took Madras, which allowed me to continue research for some turns thanks to the loot.
I now had a ring of cities around Delhi, which had started to build a palace after building a granary first, so I would like to stop the war for now. But I still didn't have Alphabet, so I delayed making peace for some turns until I had it, to be able to get some concessions out of Asoka. I hired 2 scientists in Karakorum, both to finish the research on Alphabet and to spawn a great scientist for an academy in my soon-to-be new capital.
In 355BC, I had Alphabet and made peace with Asoka - and yep, it was worth the wait!
Not only that, but for some reason Asoka was only feeling cautious towards me afterwards and I was able to strike another deal with him:
These were my lands after the war. Note that the palace would be finished in Delhi in 19 turns (actually less, as I later configured the city to max production and chopped some forests):
Note how Copper Colony still hadn't any culture to expand its borders to include the deer - it was so busy building units, I simply didn't have the time. My other cities went into infrastructure mode as well, building workers, granaries, and libraries while waiting for the next research project to complete: Construction. I disbanded several units, even some CRII axes among them, to free up money for research. I wasn't allowed to upgrade them later anyway!