Science Victory, T230, Score 2707, 45 h
Wow! What a game!
Seeing Shaka has no special bonuses for a Science victory and given the Pangea map, I decided to try go on a conquest to exploit Zulu war bonuses and use the Deity AI developed cities to push my science. Identifying the Corps and Army bonuses as my most relevant advantages, I decided to focus early on culture and beeline Mercenaries then Nationalism.
Settled the hills for extra production and to avoid the tundra. Went after Bronze Working for early Ikandas and to discover Iron. Thinking on an early war, I went with early builders to get the Apoge card soon, but this made a bit difficult to get the Iron Working boost as I was not facing enough barbarians due to only the initial warrior and scout. This lack of initial units and the difficulties to explore with so many tight places full of mountains and hills costed me the Classical era boost which ended being a normal one. So no Monumentality Classical Era.
My second city went to the east where land seemed better and to approach Victoria, but due to uncontrolled barbarians, third and fourth settlers I sent west, which probably was not the best option, but I would have had to delay settling otherwise. With 4 cities on the go, I switched to war mode, with Apoge, and started to build warriors, slingers and some spearmen hopping to raise their experience for impi.
Victoria had dozens of units around her land and had walls already, I think this is because she was soon at war with Mvemba. It made me doubt of my strategy, but already had a little army and my expansion without Monumentality would have been difficult. Decided to try my luck by sending the army past Victoria. It was a slog to move my warriors and archers through the mountain ranges with so many of her units in the middle. Some turns I had to just sit and wait. A total pain. There was no luck on finding a path to Mvembe's lands who was at bad relation with me. But found a path to Menelik who had no walls on his cities! Also, Catherine offered me 124 gold, 32 gold/turn and all her horses to war him. Deal taken.
Found Kumasi, suzerained it and used its warriors and archers to take southernmost Menelik city on T73, Sodo, and advance north over Lalibela were I was halted by chariots and catapults. Meanwhile my army at the north was unsuccessful on my attempts to conquer Adwa as a catapult was pushing me away. There was then a pivotal moment that decided the war. While I was on this, Victoria was destroying poor Cardiff. The city state's archers destroyed all her melee but an English catapult took down the walls and all of the city life. My two warriors that happened to be next by, healing from the Ethiopian catapults, offered an alternative, and in a swift move that changed my luck, there was war with Cardiff and a one round conquest. Moved Victor with the Commander promotion over the city, and thanks to Isibongo, I managed to retain the city.
Suffered an emergency war for Sodo from Catherine and Menelik on T89.
With a base on the Ethiopian valley now, I could heal and improve my warriors to swordsmen as I entered a Monumentality Medieval Era. With this power, a couple early Great Generals from my Ikandas, and reinforcements arriving from the north, Adigrat T96 and Adwa T99 finally fell giving me my first corps. The two corps swordsmen would give me the definitive advantage to snowball from there on.
Finished with 56 cities. 16 funded (6 settlers built at the capital, 1 late settler from barbarians, and 4 bought with faith), 2 loyalty turned and 38 conquered.
Diplomacy and war
The war with Menelik continued with success, finally breaking through the south and joining my armies on the final conquest of Addis Ababa (T110) which required a gold bought siege tower. This happened as my explorations lead me to circumnavigate the globe.
Next, I moved my troops through Kumasi and the southern coast into Mvemba's territory, which was lightly defended and posed little challenge with men-at-arms and impis taking the Ethiopian territory with the help of a siege tower (northern branch) and two catapults from Kumasi (southern branch). Mbanza Kongo fell on T126.
Then went over Catherine. The southern coast cities had some difficulties but I managed, taking Avignon T151 and reaching Paris outskirts.
My science was very poor. I had relied in Ikandas' science and eurekas to keep up in technology, but by this time, Catherine, who was leading in science, had around 15 more techs than me, and her attacks were very harmful even for my corpses (I even lost a Knight corps). Noticing Marseille and Paris had Renaissance walls, I decided to conclude the war, accept some gold, and try to reduce grievances while I set my eyes somewhere else, and wait for my science to recover with Ethiopian campuses repairs and some new ones in home territory.
All this time I had friendship with Victoria, Cleopatra, Dido and Amanitore, which provided with gold and fruitful trade. But I was planning to engage Victoria and the time was approaching. I did not renew alliance with her.
Problem was she had Renaissance walls too and had blocked me from Kumasi suzerainty so I could not rely on the city state siege units (nice move there Vicky). Thus, I traced a plan gathering back to the west my trebuchets, upgrading them to bombards and the men-at-arms to line infantries. While I was setting up a new army at the north and bringing the eastern one to Victoria's southern lands, a barbarian outpost went crazy in between our lands, which required attention before it could go even worse.
With the barbarian problem solved, I noticed one of Victoria's cities had Medieval walls. Thus, I setup my troops to attack Newcastle Upon Tyne from the south, while a courser corps ran through her cities on the first turn of war, blocking her north supply lines and putting the city on siege. It took me 4 turns to bring down the city with a single tile from where I could attack, but Newcastle Upon Tyne fell, giving me a passage to storm London from the south with my first army, while the second one attacked from the north. I left Victoria with two cities for I did not want too much grievances with the other leaders.
With Victoria almost done, I walked east once more, and went over Catherine to end her and capture Marseille and Paris that were great cities and were causing loyalty pressure on my conquests. It was tough but with better technology now, I managed to get Paris on T191, blessing Zulu lands with the Colisseum, Oxford University, Machu Pichu, Etemenanki and the Great Library.
After this, I went after Amanitore and Dido, which were easy walkovers as I had already military and technological advantage (and even bombers in Dido's case). Initially I planned to leave Dido, but it kind of enraged me she would not want to sign another alliance with me.
I had to pay an eye to the religion war for Cleopatra had been converting all cities, but this was the end of my wars and by this time I had all the campuses I needed for the victory and so I begun focusing on the end game. It was impossible to strike alliance with Cleopatra again once this one ended, problem of so much warmongering, but alas, I had no plan to go after her for she was my cultural champion (to avoid Culture Victory) and I kept feeding her with great works while it was possible.
In retrospective, I think I would have done better to stop war after conquering Paris. The rest of the cities took too long to repair, and aside from a couple good campuses from Amanitore and the Forbidden City from Dido, there was not much to gain for me from those wars. I could have used the focus elsewhere and maintained better trade relations for more gold. On the other hand that might have ended with a cultural victory, so maybe it was ok.
Technology and Civics
Focused on getting early Ikanda and spearmen and beelined for Impi afterwards with some stop to get Swordsmen, which was the key unit on my first conquest and the technology that really turned things to build my empire.
On Civics, I focused on Mercenaries for Corps, and then beelined Nationalism.
Pantheon: Fire Goddess, for early faith on the Kilimanjaro and geothermal fissures (in the long run I think Earth Goddess is better with so many mountains, but I think it was not available at the time).
Religion: Ignored completely religion, focusing on Ikanda's instead of Holy sites. In fact I only researched Astrology in T203.
At some point I bought some apostles and missionaries to push back Cleopatra as she was the only one with a religion left and had converted a great chunk of my empire.
Addis Ababa and Lalibella had fully developed holy sites, and I avoided raiding them because I did not had the technology (and used my time to raid the campuses instead). They were my main source of faith through a good part of the game.
The Kilimanjaro natural wonder was the most important feature allowing for early powerful growth. The other natural wonders were not meaningful.
As for wonders, built Petra, Kilwa Kisiwani, Potala Palace and Colosus. Only the Potala Palace was really meaningful, which I choped in a conquered city and used it to slot Colonial Taxes for great production and revenue in my conquered provinces.
A lot of conquered wonders, the most relevant for an end game push: Forbidden Palace, Coliseum, Machu Pichu, Great Library and Oxford University. An early conquered Hanging Gardens also had impact in growth I believe, which is science in the end.
Leader and Civ bonuses
It was clear for me this was a war leader and it was raiding and conquest what would give me a good science victory here. The early corps and the free corps on city conquest were the most useful bonuses by far, and what gave me a lead to win more scientifically developed civilizations.
The Ikanda is also a great district, with its fast construction, you can focus early on in war, for it gives you a bit of all you need, housing for growth, gold to maintain your units, and science to keep up with tech.
The impi were kind of ok but not worth it. I failed to get Statue of Zeus, but anyway, I felt my melee and cavalry units were contributing more, and the impi got obsoleted too fast for them to be a thing.
Monopolies and Corporations
I did not worry too much on obtaining monopolies and building corporations for I knew eliminating rivals would keep me from having too much tourism.
Posed a lot of trouble. Early on will force me to switch settling targets. Then I had a couple outposts in the northern snow that become pretty dangerous and forced me to deviate units there. Also one to the southwest menaced my coastal city and required a lot of effort buying an archer and a galley.
Later on I had that one in between Victoria and Menelik's valley that become crazy mad producing line infantries almost every turn. It was very dangerous but managed it by defending in rainforest hills with a man-at-arms corps and a general.
From there on, everything ok.
My end game priorities for cities development was to build Research labs everywhere, with a few museums for culture if the AI had a Theater square. Then I went after Entertainment complexes to ensure positive amenities to boost late game science and production, and Commercial Hubs with markets for coin (to buy Spaceports) and extra trade routes to focus production on Spaceport cities. Also some Industrial zones here and there were good adjacency was available and to power all the research labs and spaceport cities.
Hard built 3 spaceports and bought 3. Although all of the launch projects and most of the laser stations were on the capital built one powered by trade routes, the two bought in London and Addis Ababa also considerably contributed with 3 laser stations each.
After the Mars Colony launch, I took a pause to build the Royal Society at the capital, for I did not had the chance. Then started to build builders in most cities, and traders in the farthest ones.
In the end I invested a lot of time on this game, as I had a lot of units to move through a lot of choke points, had a lot of cities to plan, and more than once had to switch targets and move my units in different directions. But it was worth and a lot of fun. Thanks a lot for the game!