I had started a thread with a question over Ragnar's seemingly illogical DoW on me, to which I received many good replies. I finished out the game last night (29 hours - sheesh!). It was not my greatest victory by any long stretch, mainly because I decided to start experimenting once I saw that a cultural victory was just a matter of time. The experimenting raised a lot of questions. Describing the game is going to make for a very long post, but I'd very much appreciate comments and constructive criticism on things I did right and wrong or could have done better and please feel free to jump in on any point. The setup: BtS as Elizabeth at Warlord difficulty (mainly for the off-chance of popping a Settler from a goody hut) with Espionage turned off (I don't really understand it yet). The map is Hemispheres, 3 Continents, Large map, Tiny Islands, Epic speed and the default number of civs. I'll attach my starting autosave at the bottom if anyone wants to give it a play-through (I've got Solver's Unofficial Patch installed, which may be needed to load the save), but the rest of the post is going to have massive spoilers about the map and the opponents, so it's up to you. My decision at the start was to settle in place. It worked for me, but it's debatable in light of the weirdness of that terrain. The early game went as described in the other thread: I found myself on a decent continent with Ragnar, couldn't get jack out of him except Open Borders and a surprise DoW. I got spanked bad on the first run through, but was prepared when he did it again on the second try. I vassalized him and exiled him to some islands at the southern end of the continent from which he never recovered and stayed at the bottom of the scoreboard for the rest of the game. I captured a couple of Barb cities down there, which I liberated to him because they didn't control any necessary resources, weren't worth the hassle of managing and liberating them gave me really good diplo points with him. Because I had essentially knocked him back to the Stone Age, he couldn't research for me, so I think those diplo points were wasted effort, though it did save me the upkeep costs. I kept the rest of his cities in spite of their whining, which came back to haunt me later as an early warning on rising war weariness in all of my cities. In retrospect, I think I probably should have just wiped him out because of the diplomatic penalties he and his vassal state caused. I'd really appreciate someone who can enlighten me on when vassals are actually useful because none of mine were. I got the Holy Mountain quest (which I failed), but sent a Caravel and a Galleon with a Settler and Worker to find it and eventually made contact with the rest of the civs on the other continents. The Caravel found Saladin, Willem, Sitting Bull and Justinian to my west. The Galleon found Zara, Qin Shi and Augustus to my east with just enough room on the wrong side of the continent to plant my Settler and actually have a chance of growing into something useful. My exploration also led me to a couple or three chains of tiny islands, which turned to be a wonderful place to work on my navy since they seemed to spawn Barb galleys every couple of turns and weren't accessible with the coastal naval units. Once I had Caravels and Frigates, I sent them galley-hunting until they had racked up 10 xps and then saved them for later upgrading since that saved me the effort and unhealthiness of a Drydock when that became available. I'm not sure whether that was a good strategy, but it worked, although paying for the upgrades was painful. The only thing I had to watch out for was trading away my World Map and letting other civs know about my hunting grounds. Once they had sail units it became moot. The surprising thing was that every other civ was seriously behind me in the tech race when I made contact and could check them out. I know I've got a slight research bonus from the difficulty level, but it's not THAT big. I think my approach of putting Libraries, Universities, and Observatories into every city paid real dividends in this game. Willem was very close on the scoreboard, but I couldn't compare anything else due to Espionage being turned off. My best guess is that the map really did favor financial leaders. Anyway, I hadn't been focusing very much on teching aside from bee-lining Sailing, Bronze Working and Iron Working to deal with Ragnar and then back-filling the rest. I think I had three or four scientists (total) in the cities that had multiple food resources, but the rest came from being able to keep the the research slider at 80% or better because of all of the commerce I was generating. After dealing with Ragnar, I turned into a wonder-whore. I'm not sure if that was the proper way to go, but with the map mostly unexlored I couldn't figure out what else to build aside from city improvements and wonders. I approach military units as being purpose-built things rather than something that gets built just to build something, so once the initial couple of defenders were done and since no threats looming on the horizon, military dropped to the bottom of the priority list aside from naval units. On the religious front, I got Judaism, Christianity, Taoism and Islam and wasn't even trying. The wonders generated a few Great Prophets, so I was able to build the shrines for all of them and had spammed missionaries when I couldn't think of anything else that needed building for a few turns. The net result was plentiful cash for the rest of the game. The serious downside of the religion issue was that Justinian had managed to found Hinduism and spammed it to everyone on that continent, while Zara founded Buddhism and spammed it on his (including my new settlement). So I suffered from heathen religion penalties for most of the mid-game as well as almost everyone detesting Ragnar. OK, on to the mid-game. I control my continent completely with Ragnar stuck in his little island empire. By the time I made contact with them, Qin Shi had been vassalized by Zara and Saladin had been vassalized by Willem. Sitting Bull was the major player on his part of the continent, but kept peace with Justinian. Once the map was mostly explored, I saw that a Conquest or Domination victory was a possibility if I could learn to effectively invade, but I don't like razing well-established cities, so Conquest was not likely. I'm not sure how to lay the groundwork for a Diplomatic Victory, but didn't think it was likely to happen in any event due to the religion issue and not wanting to let Ragnar off his leash. That left the Space Race (which I could probably pull off in light of my tech lead), a Time victory (2050 was a long way off, though), or a Cultural victory (which I figured to be almost certain, but it's kind of like kissing your sister). So here's where I start experimenting with a Domination victory. I let the Chinese pull me into a war with Justinian. I figured that Zara was the better target, but everyone liked him and I couldn't figure out how to get him to DoW me so I wouldn't have the diplo penalty for declaring war on a friend. I denied every request he made, refused trades, insulted his sister (not really, but you get the idea). I managed to get him down to Annoyed, but he still wouldn't DoW me. I know by this point that I'm going to have to declare on him and invade. On the other hand, by sucking up to the Chinese, I hoped to at least partially offset the "you declared war on me" I was going to suffer when I took on Zara. I loaded up my Galleons with Redcoats and Cannons, leaving my cities defended by Ancient and Medieval units because I can't afford to upgrade them yet and an invasion from elsewhere wasn't likely in light of the tech screen. I figure that the easiest route to victory in a war is to use the best units available rather than throwing obsolete units into it and having to replace them with more modern stuff when they lose. I take 6 or 7 of Justinian's cities and vassalize him. I lose one of those cities to a culture flip to Sitting Bull almost as soon as it comes out of resistance (annoying) and the rest are whining about their motherland, but I ignore it. By the time that I finish settling those cities and getting their borders out with theaters and libraries, I've upgraded my Galleons to Transports and my Caravels, Frigates and one or two Ships of the Line (most either at or near 10 xps from Barb-hunting) get upgraded to Destroyers. I promo'd them to C2 and Drill I while they were still sail units. I'm not sure if that was the best way to go, but since everyone else was still at Galleys/Triremes with only a couple of Caravels out there (Willem's IIRC), I figured that it didn't matter. As it turned out later, I should have included the Pinch promotion on my land units, but I wasn't looking that far ahead and it wasn't needed for the immediate war. As it stood, they were mostly Garrison I's (I had stripped my city defenses for a good chunk of the manpower), C2's and a couple of Medic I's. I built a few Cavalry for my war with Justinian, but they arrived too late to be of much use. I left all of my Knights guarding the home front. I probably should have brought them to turn into mobile Medic units since they already had a couple of promotions each (plus Flanking I thanks to the Noble Knights quest) and their upgrade path goes to Gunships with a very good movement rate. Hindsight, as they say, is always 20/20. Shortly after vassalizing Justinian, I teched to Flight and built Airports in my three best production cities, plus an Airport in the one city next to Zara and Qin Shi. As I discovered in a different game, you can only airlift one unit per turn to a city without an airport and it can only base a bare handful of air units. My next tech stop is going to be Radio for the Bombers as I attempt to rule the skies (at least for a little while). The game plan is now to go after Zara, which means war with both the Ethiopians and Chinese. My vassals are going to be completely useless aside from there being three DoWs on each of my opponents. Since I had good diplo points with Qin Shi before declaring on Zara, the idea was to stay out of his territory and leave him completely alone unless he came after me. Once I had taken enough of Zara's territory, I expected him to break free from Zara and I could make peace with him so I wouldn't have to worry about fighting two opponents. I did exactly that and never even saw a Chinese unit until I got down to his border with Zara. I'm not sure if that was a logical plan in light of how little I understand AI behavior as a vassal, but it seems to have worked. The war with Zara went a lot differently than the war with Justinian. Zara had teched Gunpowder and had begun cranking out Oromo Warriors and Cuirassiers (which is why I wish I had gone with the Pinch promotion instead of C2 or Medic I), but hadn't teched Steel, so was still using Cats (almost no Trebs). But by this point, I'm cranking out Infantry and Artillery while aiming to make the existing Cavalry into MASH units, so I don't think it made that much difference. I had thought about producing Marines instead of Infantry since they're slightly stronger units, but the extra turns to produce them turned me off until I was solidly on the victory path. As it turned out, I probably should have gone with the Marines because of how Zara had positioned most of his cities next to rivers. The turns I saved in producing Infantry were partially lost in maneuvering to avoid the penalty for attacking across a river. Here's my tactics and I'd really appreciate comments on how to do this better because the war took far too long for my liking. My stacks are composed of three or four Infantry, four or five Artillery and a couple of Cavalry, one of which has or will get a Medic I promotion with a few making it to Medic II before it's all over. When Zara starts zapping me with Airships, I'll add a SAM Infantry to each stack as soon as I can. I've got a stack of 6 Cavalry running around on its own, mainly to preemptively deal with any stacks containing siege units that Zara might try to field. Once it becomes pretty obvious that he's not producing any more stacks (more on that later), I split the Cavalry into two groups of three with one group going with (not in) each of my stacks. Aside from that, the Cavalry stack's purpose is scouting and resource removal. I can't do anything about what he's getting in trade (or can I?), but I can deny him what's on the map in front of me. I'll manage to produce a total of eight Bombers and rebase them, but because there's only one airport there, I end up with two groups of four when the front moves farther out. My home cities are producing Infantry and Artillery for the most part. I'll switch them to Marines, SAM Infantry (when Zara starts producing Airships), Tanks and Mobile Artillery as those become available. I have my six promo'd Destroyers running up and down Zara's coast. They're reducing coastal city defenses and sinking anything that they can find. I have one of my better coastal cities producing new Destroyers, which get moved to the other coastal cities as they are built. After I capture a city, I airlift defensive units to it. I'm initially limited to three airlifts per turn, but eventually get a few more airports built. The only problem is that since the destination city can only receive one airlifted unit per turn without an Airport, I've usually got a couple of units landing elsewhere and then having to move into position (maybe I should have gone with Paratroopers instead?). Once I start building Marines, the Infantry in the attacking stack will stay on as city defense and the airlifted Marines will replace them in the stack. Initially I'm using pretty standard attacks: occupy the tile with the best defense bonus, use the Artillery to reduce the city's defenses and then inflict collateral damage. Once the defenders are as pounded as I can make them, the Infantry/Marines and Cavalry take out the defenders. I try very hard to make sure that the last attacking unit does not take the city since it would be own its own until the next turn. Once the Bombers come online, I use them to remove the defenses and take the defenders down to half-strength while my stack is maneuvering into position and then use the Artillery/Mobile Artillery to inflict the rest of the collateral damage. Once I've got the city, the first build is a Theater (the cheapest culture-producting building, I think), followed by a Library and then a Courthouse. It just occurred to me that since Espionage was turned off, that Courthouse produces Culture instead of Espionage, so maybe it should have come sooner. Again, hindsight is 20/20. Anyway, while that's going on, defensive and replacement units are being airlifted in and the stack is healing up before moving on to the next target where the process gets repeated. Once I get to the other side of the continent, it goes a little quicker since the Destroyers have removed the defenses and the Bombers only have to soften it up rather than doing double-duty like they did with the inland cities. I kept an eye out for a killer stack from somewhere. Aside from one good-sized stack near the beginning of the war, it never appeared. Zara did send one stack to my home continent, but he chose to drop it off right in front of the city holding the Marines and Mobile Artillery that were waiting to be airlifted. You'd think that he might have scouted out the situation first and dropped it off near one of the weaker coastal cities (I had a couple at the southern end of the continent that only had one defender aside from a Destroyer). But no. He drops it off in front of the one city that can spank it without breaking a sweat. Does he make another stack to try to take back some of the cities that I've captured? No. He starts spamming Frigates to come pillage my coastal resources or something. Eventually, Zara capitulates. In retrospect and for the same reasons as with Ragnar (useless vassal), I probably should have taken him out completely. That's all of the warmongering I did. My war against Ragnar took close to 50 turns before I could wrap it up for a gain of 10 or 12 cities. The war against Justinian took quite a bit less than that, but a lot of that time went to sending Galleons back and forth to bring units and he didn't have very many cities to go after anyway. Aside from the cities that I ended up liberating anyway, the only benefit was that I think it kept Qin Shi off my back during the war with Zara. The war against Zara took about 60 or 70 turns. Again, I had to shuttle units across the sea before I could even get started, but this was a war that I knew was coming. I think the slowdown was due to using too few units, so the war progressed in fits and starts as I stopped to let units heal up. More units means that the stack can move on, even if a few units remain behind to heal. Fewer units means more time spent healing. On the other hand, I only lost a couple of units during that whole war because nobody had to fight at half-strength. Is that assessment close to reality or am I just dreaming? I considered going after Qin Shi and Augustus to gain complete control of that continent, but the war weariness was reaching critical proportions back home and the sheer number of overseas cities was putting a serious strain on my treasury. In spite of the shrines (I ended up with all seven, btw), I could only manage to get up to 40% or 50% research without going into serious deficit spending; 20% to 30% ran a mild deficit, but I'd have had to drop to 10% to actually run a surplus. The culture slider was at 20% or 30% to deal with the war weariness. So I decided that I would "study war no more forever" since I didn't think I could sustain another war anytime soon and still keep my tech lead or my treasury. To alleviate the financial burden of the overseas possessions, I liberated them as colonies. Zara's territory was first (enter Lincoln), followed by Justinian's (enter Monty) and I am well and truly hozed. The only person who likes Monty is Ragnar, the only person who likes Ragnar is Monty, all of my vassals are suffering from serious "heathen religion" penalties from the other civs, including each other and none of them will adopt Free Religion. In fact, most of my vassals are each others' worst enemies. I'm at Free Religion so that I don't have to deal with the heathen penalty, but am taking diplo hits for having three vassals: Ragnar, Justinian and Zara. I don't dare let Ragnar or Monty off of the leash and can't let Zara or Justinian go because it was a capitulation and I don't have cities to liberate to them except mine and the ones I took from Ragnar. On top of that, Zara's royally peeved and doesn't cool off for the remainder of the game in spite of my kowtowing at his every whim (I guess insulting his sister was just too much). Justinian gets along with me and everyone else, but he's back in the Stone Age with Ragnar and about as useful. Here's the problem with my vassals. They can't or won't do anything for me. Lincoln can research almost as well as me, but he won't trade any techs that he discovers because he's the only civ that has them (he started with all of my techs). He does have some resources that I need, so we have a good trade relationship going, but he absolutely will not cough up newly discovered techs. Justinian and Monty have a few useful resources and will trade them, but they can't research very well. Zara hates my guts and the only thing I can get out of him is Open Borders. Ragnar is, well, Ragnar. Thanks to liberating those barb cities to him, he loves me like his long-lost brother. But he's in no condition to help me and I'm still trying to figure out how to have played that differently, aside from wiping him out. Somewhere along the line, Augustus builds the U.N. Since I'm the biggest of the remaining civs, it's between me and him. Thanks to my vassals' and Willem's support, I get to be Secretary General. Saladin went with Augustus, Qin Shi abstained and I can't remember where Sitting Bull fell in the vote, but it was an overwhelming majority of votes for me. Resolution 1: Emancipation. Passes unanimously. Resolution 2: Open Borders. Fails miserably. Even my vassals won't vote for it and I can't figure out how to make them. Resolution 3: Free Religion. Fails miserably. Monty, Zara and Ragnar even went with "Defy Resolution". Resolution 4: Nonproliferation (I've already built the Manhattan Project and SDI, have three or four Tactical Nukes and a couple or three ICBMs, so bringing it to a vote is no skin off my nose). Passes unanimously. Interestingly enough, I get to keep my nukes. I didn't try to use them, so I don't know whether I could or not. I guess they're a unit like any other once they're built. Resolution 5: Free Trade. Fails miserably with a couple of my vassals voting "Defy Resolution". Because of the defiance from my vassals on some of these resolutions, I'm reluctant to try for the Diplomatic Victory. I tried it in another game and ended up losing the game, so I don't want to bring it up unless it's either a "sure thing" or at least not a sure thing for the other guy. Is the indicator the Secretary General election or the other resolutions? So Domination, Conquest, and Diplomatic victories are out. I can still win the Space Race, but I lost a lot of my tech lead due to the financial burden of overseas possessions. It may not have even been a tight race, I think. London was producing 127 hammers per turn (Maoi Statues are wonderful), Hastings and Coventry aren't far behind that and most of my other cities are the equal of the other civs' best thanks to Forges, Factories, the Three Gorges Dam and a few Priest specialists. But I didn't go for it. That leaves Time and Culture. Culture is still in the bag. My three best cities (London, Hastings and Coventry) are all above 20,000 with my closest rival yet to crack 10,000. At current culture production rates, I expect to bag a Cultural victory by about 1970. Any Great Artists the pop will speed that tremendously since I can airlift from almost any city. As for Time, my score is just about double that of the cosest civ, but I really don't feel like dragging it out until 2050. Interestingly enough, making a colony out of Zara's cities gave my finances a major boost, but making a colony out of Justinian's hardly changed anything. I wonder why that might be. Both areas are about equally distant from London. A remaining financial issue was unit costs. I wasn't paying anything for supply lines, but was paying about 50 gpt in unit costs. I started whittling away at that by disbanding the Redcoats that were occupying Monty's cities. For the most part, one unit disbanded resulted in a 1 gpt drop in the unit cost, but after disbanding 6 or 7 units, that dropped to about 1 gpt gained from 2 units disbanded. Then even less, so I think there's a point of diminishing returns in there somewhere and I'm just not sure where it is. I did discover something that may explain the AI's typical junk unit counter-attack strategy. In the process of weeding through my units to reduce the unit costs, I decided to upgrade some of them. It probably wasn't necessary since the psychos were my vassals and couldn't attack me, but I was awfully flush with cash after liberating Lincoln and Monty and decided to experiment some more. I've got a hodge-podge of old and new units guarding my home cities, so I went through those. By this point I can upgrade units to Mechanized Infantry, Mobile SAM, Gunships and things like that. The cost to upgrade a Warrior to Mechanized Infantry is between 750 and 1000. The cost to upgrade a Swordsman is about 750. The cost to upgrade a Musketman or Redcoat is about 450. The cost to upgrade a Marine to Mechanized Infantry is about 100 or 200. I'm working from memory, so those are ballpark figures for the most part. Anyway, once the AI builds a unit, I don't think it ever disbands it. And since it's prohibitively expensive to upgrade, the best use for a really obsolete unit seems to be to throw it into a counter-attack, be thankful if it actually wins the combat, but plan on replacing it with something more current. Does that more or less comport with everyone else's experience? Last item. Having decided that a cultural victory was the route to go, I spent the remainder of the game wonder-whoring again. It's not that I actually needed them, but they contribute to the final score. London had already achieved Legendary Culture thanks to my earlier period of wonder-whoring. Hastings and Coventry built anything that generated culture. Coventry built Wall Street because it was my commerce city and Hastings built the Ironworks because it was my best production city (aside from London). But after those were complete, they built strictly culture-related wonders and buildings. When there wasn't anything left on that list, I just set them to building Culture and left it there unless something cropped up like citizens demanding a hospital or the like. I had one Great Artist pop during this period and sent him to culture bomb whichever of the two had the lowest culture score. In addition, once I had finished researching Future Tech 1, I dropped the research slider to 0 and jacked the culture slider to 100. For the rest of my cities, I had them finish up whatever useful city improvements still needed to be done, including Forges and Factories, and then set them to building Wealth because I think the bank account also counts in the final score, though I'm not sure how much. Since there were no looming threats and I had already upgraded everything that I wanted to keep and disbanded the rest, more units weren't needed. I'm not sure if that was the way to go or not, but it was all I could think of at the time. I'll certainly take suggestions on how to deal with that situation if it comes up again and especially if there is a faster way to do it. Just sitting there hitting <Enter> for a lot of turns wasn't the most enjoyable part of the game. If you've made it this far, thanks for letting me take your time and I hope you can answer some of those questions or comment on some of the issues that came up. Edit: forgot to attach the saved game file - sorry.