Hello, and I am playing with a friend who loves the Zulu civ and the Impi rush. I was wondering what Civ would be best to stop them without an early rush. I believe that Japan would probably be the best.
Well there are a few civs who have good UU's for fighting off Impis (Chinese Choko's, English Longbows, Korean H'Wacha's, Japanese Samurais, Arabian Camel Archers) but the problem is you'd have to take a sub-optimal tech path to rush those UU's out, and still you'd never get them out before impi's since they are acquired with Civil Service. Btw, by sub-optimal I mean you'd have to beeline the UU tech instead of the usual beeline for Civil Service then Education. Your Impi spamming friend gets his UU's on the way to education so he would likely wind up with a tech advantage over you which would make things worse in the long run.
IMHO your best bet would be to pick a civ which can easily out-tech him and hold him at bay until his Impi's aren't much of a threat. Babylon would probably be the best choice. The huge early science output will pretty much guarantee you out-tech him and building walls of babylon in any city that might be threatened by him will help hold him off. Build lots of Composite bows and quite a few pikemen to meatshield for them. Then after you get education make your way towards Machinery and upgrade to Xbows.
The obvious answer is Zulu, you can't fight him if he is yourself!
Or Attila where you can dominate a lot earlier. But fail to kill him before Civil Service and you're in for a tough spot (hopefully you get logistics by then). Human Impis should come out around turn 80-90 and you can field a decent army of HAs by turn 30-ish. Shouldn't be too hard.
Attila. Beeline the Wheel and Bronze Working then kill your "friend". Take a few turns wandering your settler as you want horses, sheep and cattle.
You say you want to prevent him without an early rush? This is the only way to counter a human Shaka who's hell bent on your destruction.
OP specified he didn't want an early rush. The Huns would have been the obvious choice otherwise. The only other option is to tech faster so that when Impis come online, he has better units. But I agree with phillipwyllie that a rush is more effective, 99% of the time.
Japan is not good against impi because steel is too late of a tech, you have to go very away from the optimal tech path to get it and there's no way you are getting it earlier than him getting civil service.
Apart from science civ and out tech him, I have two words for you: Great wall
and of course terrain is important because impi can still move 2 tiles if the terrain is flat even with great wall, and build roads in your territory for defense.
Yeah a civ like Babylon with the great wall should be pretty awesome against an early human rush. Immediate UU which helps stop a warrior and archer rush, awesome walls for stronger city defense and free great scientist for fast tech to get ahead of him early.
Settle on a hill if possible and if you get the choice for a pantheon maybe go for goddess of protection. Tradition would be the obvious social policy tree here for the city defense as well as the growth bonuses synergizing with the science focus.
Build units early. I would imagine a couple of warriors and archers by T30 quills be pretty good. Then aim to have a bunch more asap, even if it is at the expense of a bit of tech rate/wonders etc.
Look for defensible locations where archers can sit behind the city and fire, if possible across a river with limited access. Could be worthwhile to build a city in a great choke point if it will stop the invasion, regardless of workable tiles.
Honestly, if you really want to break your "friend" then try to play Shoshone and grab a few CB's with the pathfinders. You honestly don't need that many to take him down long before he's even researched his own CB's.
I'd also like to give a nudge to Elisabeth, even though science heavy Civs like Babylon etc should work well too. He UU is an X-bow replacement with an addtitional range. That combined with good terrain and a Great Wall can severely slow down the Zulu advance.
I found that any civ can protect from Zulus if you have chance to use terrain advantage (river, lakes, mountains, marsh).
In the best case you should have river between you and Zulus: build many composites and even horsemans and kill all impis which cross the river.