Cultural Victory, T121, Score 511, 16 h
Great game to play towards the strengths of the Court Festival!
Court Festival in a map with 20 civs and Wet option for a lot of forests. This sounded like chopping festivals was the way to go. Also, as project cost increases with technology and civics I wanted to limit the amount of research done. My aim was to get to Theater Squares fast, then slow down research as fast as possible. Debated myself between building the Pyramids or the Hanging Gardens for the Drama boost, in the end decided to go with Hanging Gardens for there was no desert at sight, and the Hanging Gardens route requires less science and production, plus I needed plantations anyway. Also calculated the cost of building Theater Squares with discount, and decided the production and research to have other early districts was a loss. Hence, I went straight for Theater Squares and took the City Patron Goddess for 25% discount on 1st district. With Court Festival you really do not need any other districts to be built anyway.
From there on, expand at maximum, focusing production on settlers and builders to get luxuries until it is the time to chop festivals and win. Also, with a huge map, I needed to have scouts and galleys soon enough to explore and discover all the civs for extra tourism.
Focused on building scouts then tried to get as many settlers as possible while researching my way to Theater Squares. Sent my first settlers to the east and north-east where I saw a good combination of food and forests to chop. Declared a couple of wars on city states to steal builders because they had quests for things I did not want to build.
Boosted Drama on T46 with Hanging Gardens, getting the civic on T57 and building my first two Theater Sqaures on T67 and T69.
Found early on I had not much space for peaceful expansion, but I had tones of horses which were giving me gold aplenty, which I used to buy 4 horsemen. Although I wanted to conquer Ba Trieu, for access to the center of the continent and because she has good culture potential, I decided horse maneuverability could had an easier time on the northern plains. Declared war on Eleanor and left her with just a single city, signing peace on T79.
Got my coastal city in T66 and my first galley in T74 (with the +100% naval production card) found Tamar who had a coastal city with 3 points of attack and 3 luxuries just in front of my territory, so I declared war on her and took that city in T91, signing peace afterwards.
Meanwhile, I went after Lady Six with the horsemen, taking Uxmal in T95. Her Hul'che's ranged attacks and horsemen, with their +5 strength near the capital, made me realize it would be a lose of time and resources to conquer her capital, and so I signed the peace.
I reached T100 with 7 Theater Squares and 12 cities.
15 cities, although I returned Tyre in the turn of victory for it had no luxuries and I did not want the penalties of holding another capital. 8 were conquered, and from the 7 settled, 1 was bought with gold, and 4 produced. 1 was stolen from Eleanor and I had 3 more moving to new positions when the end came.
The capital was good, but not as productive as I thought it would be. It lacked food for reaching the growth the Hanging Gardens were enabling. My 2nd and 3rd cities though were great, with a lot of food for early growth, the 2nd one had a lot of woods I chopped for festivals, while the 3rd city was in between my territory and my conquests and was providing all the cities with builders with Liang and Serfdom for most part of the game. Then my coastal city was also tactical in the discovery of new civs to the west through the seas, and to launch conquests on Tamar and Dido, plus with 3 turtles and furs, it was super important city. These 3 cities (along with the capital) were the most important ones and could have probably won the game just with them.
I only really built Theater Squares in the cities, except for my 4th one were I built the government plaza. Also, only two of those theaters had adjacency bonuses (Stonehenge and Government plaza).
Diplomacy and war
Cultivated good relations with anyone who was not nearby enough for a conquest. Still some for-aways like Qin Shi and Victoria hated me since the moment I started to war. Managed to strike an Alliance with Seondeok, and three more by when the game came to an end.
After conquering Eleanor and Lady Six, and stealing one city from Tamar, I moved my horsemen and galleys to strike together on Dido. I levied Hong Kong armies for the war as well. My wars ended there, with horsemen upgraded to coursers.
Declared a joint war with Seondeok on Qin Shi, in an attempt to stagger Seondeok's culture building, which seamed to work as her culture hold during the last turns.
Because I coveted luxuries for the court festival bonuses, I did not made luxes trade (except a few very early on), and focuses instead on selling horses for gold. I discovered selling them in packs of 40 render much more gold when the AI has no horses. With so many AIs, this gave me as much gold as when trading luxuries until the King AI gets depleted of gold.
Found 15 civilizations (in that order): Eleanor, Ba Trieu, Lady Six Sky (Purple), Victoria, Seondeok (Green), Chandragupta, Gorgo, Qin Shi, Lady Six Sky (Grey), Tamar, Dido, Kristina, Wilhelmina, Cleopatra and Seondeok (Brown).
I wonder who were the other 5.
Technology and Civics
This was a weird game for the Court Festival makes you to want avoid research once you have Theater Squares. I avoided campuses and Pingala, focused research on Techs and Civics I did not have the boost for. Went after techs that would boost my exploring efforts (Sailing/Shipbuilding) and my war efforts (Castles to upgrade horsemen). Went after Printing afterwards, but the game ended before that.
Avoided completely a lot of techs, specially district ones like Astrology or Coinage. At some point I realized I needed Bronze Working to chop jungles, and went for it although I had no plans.
Pantheon: City Patron Goddess for 25% discount on 1st district (I think this one was great for this game)
Religion: None. I noticed this would be a short game and religion would only delay my efforts in other fronts.
Hanging Gardens was key for the boost to Drama and Poetry. The extra housing and city growth was helpful to increase production. Also built the Apadana, mostly for the extra envoys, but I thought the tourism and extra slots would be of use.
For Natural Wonders, I only found the Matterhorn super late on T88, but it could have been a great bonus and nice boost for anyone going for a religion.
Leader and Civ bonuses
The Court Festival completely changes this game more than any other leader bonus, in that you do not want to research fast, and you want to get Theater Squares very soon very fast. I like to see Court Festival games every now and then.
The +2 culture adjacency the Theater Square gives, is nice, although you do not want to research Civics, I used this for faster border expansion, in order to gain production and woods to chop.
The Grand Tour double tourism is nice, but with the Court Festival, it is only a minor bonus.
The rest of the bonuses were not relevant as they came too late in game.
It was nice for a change, although a bit confusing in some situations.
Were well taken care. Their outposts razing served me for Era Score.
It was a very interesting setting, for with the announcement you could see this was an exceptional good game for Court Festival chopping. I wonder if building builders instead of Amphitheaters before going to Court Festival would had given a better result, maybe without the need for conquest. I would like to retry this one, but the huge map was giving too long within-turns for my taste.
Thanks a lot for keeping new interesting scenarios for us. It was fun!