Now that I had a large and well-developed empire, it was time to think about what type of victory to pursue. Culture was out because I hadn't played towards that goal right away from the beginning, and now it was too late. Space was out as well, as I had no chance to catch up in time; additionally, the nature of this variant made it nearly impossible, as I would only be able to buy the last tech several turns after at least two of the AIs had discovered it (and most probably started to build the last part themselves). Conquest would be too hard if not impossible even, as an uphill battle against technologically superior opponents on another continent would simply take too long before an AI would launch. Domination might be doable, but to be honest, while I like to wage war in principle, I lack the patience for the amount of micromanagement such a long military campaign would need (see my war against Gandhi, which I had ended before he was completely destroyed because of that reason).
There was another problem: The WFYABTA ("We Fear You Are Becoming Too Advanced") limit. After buying Physics from Mansa for 9460 gold, all except Mansa stopped trading with me because of the WFYABTA limit.
I had no idea how many techs I would be allowed to buy from Mansa before he would stop trading with me as well! So I had to go for the victory type that needed the least amount of techs to buy: The United Nations. Would I be able to reach Mass Media before the AIs would decide they had fed me with enough techs?
As noted earlier, this report won't turn into an argument against the WFYABTA limit - I was clearly not playing in a way anticipated by the designers. In the Realms Beyond forum, there had been a lot of heated discussions about the WFYABTA limit, and while I accept there has to be some kind of limit, I'm not so happy with the way it has been implemented. You run into it when you least expect it; more often than not, it hurts the AIs more than it hurts you; and it can be frustrating at times and kill some of the fun. But it is necessary, and because I cannot really come up with a better algorithm of how to improve it (not knowing how exactly it is implemented at the moment in the first place), I accept it and try to deal with it. Ironically, in this game I completely relied on tech whoring, and the WFYABTA limit hasn't stopped me so far! It had slowed me down though, and I learned a lot about which of the AI personalities stops trading with you first, and which will continue to trade with you for a longer time.
I set most cities on wealth now, to be able to compete in my race to Mass Media with the spaceships of Mansa and Saladin. Additionally, now that the war was over and my culture slider could be set back to 0% again, I started a golden age. Or more precisely, two golden ages by accident! I had two great engineers, a great artist, a great merchant, and a great prophet sitting in my capital. I wanted to save my engineers for the U.N. and wanted to use the merchant for a trade mission for even more money, so I selected the artist and the prophet and clicked on the golden age button. What the game did was use up all five great people and start two golden ages at once! Argh! If you select one great person, how can you control which other great person will be used for the GA? Selecting the second great person apparently wasn't the way to do this.
Ah well, so I had lost the merchant for the trade mission and the engineers for the UN, but at least had 16 turns of golden age, now giving me roughly 2600 gold per turn. I bought Electricity from Mansa Musa for 11710 gold (which still equals four turns of GA income with most cities on wealth!). After that, Saladin was suddenly willing to trade with me again (huh? Relations hadn't changed!), so I bought Radio from him for 14200 gold next.
Now I had a problem, though: For a long time, Gandhi(!) was the only one with Mass Media! Space parts were built, but the other AIs ignored Mass Media. What if they went for all space techs first before going for Mass Media? Or if only the AIs who had stopped trading with me go for Mass Media? I would lose the game then!
The AIs had mercy with me, though. In 1930AD, Mansa Musa (and Saladin) had the tech as well, and I bought it for a mere 9410 gold. I also had had the luck to get another great engineer some turns ago, which I now used on the U.N.
To improve relations, I switched to no state religion and signed a defense pact with Mansa Musa, who by now had built all five casings, all three thrusters, and the cockpit. Elections for U.N. secretary-general came, and Frederick was my opponent in the election. All except my two former war adversaries (Victoria and Gandhi) voted for me. Then came the elections for diplomatic victory, and...
...I won! Saladin did abstain though, even if we had multiple boni (military struggle, trade relations, resources, open borders, ...) while Mansa, who had less boni with me than Saladin, still voted for me. Er...
That had been a great game! I had enjoyed this variant immensely, not knowing if it would be possible at all. Being behind in tech while on par with the AIs on production power was great fun, more than I have in Immortal games where the AIs run around with a ridiculous high number of units. Actually being able to fight against superior units with old ones, only relying on tactics and terrain, was a very enjoyable experience! It had also led me to the conclusion that collateral damage is well-balanced if you fight units of your tech level, but feels really odd if you use it against units of higher technology. One catapult shouldn't be able to seriously damage 5 infantry with one attack, in my opinion.
This game also proved that in normal games, indeed self-research is the way to go. I was glad to see that you can buy techs with money alone if you really want to, though. It was also nice to play a game where my cities could skip libraries, expensive universities etc., and it was the first game where I felt banks and grocers were really useful.
I think pointy stick research is a bit weak, though. I was surprised just how hard it is to extort a tech from an AI after a crippling war. Maybe that is needed to balance out the other good effects a war can have for you, but you can forget any plan relying on getting a tech out of war basically, which is a pity - that had been great fun in Civ 3. I don't think AIs should give up cities easier, but maybe should be more willing to part with a tech? Not sure about that, though.
Speaking of technology, take a look at my tech tree from after the game:
I've never completed a game where I still lacked so many techs before. And still, I felt rather safe from attacks, as cossacks and large amounts of cats are nice against nearly everything - only make sure you can replace 5-10 catapults per turn.
Naturally, my game was geared towards a good economy. And even if I was unable to get early banks going, my GNP was far superior to the AI's:
Only during the beginning of the 18th century, Gandhi had been able to compete with me - one of the reasons I had to act against him. The power graph looks less rosy, but still better than in most of my normal games:
Mansa's power graph, on the other hand, looks downright scary. My military units built/lost chart is interesting too. I had built 42 cossacks, but only lost 5 during the whole game!
If you want to know why, look at the "catapult" line. I had lost 34(!) catapults, not counting those that managed to retreat from combat! Even marines and infantry will eventually succumb to this. Another sign that this game involved fighting superior units was how many macemen I had lost: Normally, I take care only to attack at favorable odds, and I'm not used to lose so many units.
I end this report with two more silly facts about my game: I still hadn't adopted anything other than paganism until the end, something I doubt will ever happen to me again, and my total playing time was 8 hours and 17 minutes. Thanks for reading!