The impact of modified settings (India, Emperor, 31 Civ, Continents)

Fergei

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Having found out how to bring my old XP computer back to life with the MyPal web-browser, I thought I'd post a game I am playing that focusses as much on the impact of modified game settings as it does on the actual contest. 206x206 tile, Continent map with 31x Civs, Emperor difficulty based on https://forums.civfanatics.com/threads/civ-3-conquests-retuned.666520/.

I will play for any win condition, with Domination being 20% of land mass AND 20% of population (far less than the default settings). I randomise my Civ and get India. I'm happy with that, a very decent UU and Religious, which suits me as a lot of my play is culture focussed and my settings discourage sitting on Republic.

With:
- a settler auto-popping every 20 turns (until Mapmaking)
- a very congested landmass (~280 land tiles per Civ compared to ~500 with default settings)
- no bonus starting units for the AI (the difficulty comes from their Cost Factor being reduced by 2, from 8 to 6)

we get a more even spread in the expansion phase, less chance of a runaway AI, a lot more multi-Civ shared borders and the human player competing for the score lead from the outset. We see something like this.

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Its a surprisingly passive start to this particular game except for a war between Germany and Carthage (and a far off war between Ottomans and Spaniards). These conflicts do not expand, perhaps in part because Military Alliances are replaced by Trade Embargoes and Mutual Protection Pacts at Writing. So very early wars are less likely to descend into global warfare.

The Carthage vs Germany war is perfect for me given Carthage's UU should see them hold off the Germans. Strangely, from the outset Carthage has not been expanding its borders. I assume, given I have no tech trading for the first two columns in the ancient era he has not prioritised Ceremonial Burial. His war with Germany means no border expansion is imminent from him and its a invitation for aggressive city placements for Calcutta and Karachi. Because there are multi-Civ boundaries the chance of either city flipping to the enemy much reduced (if Carthage & Germany were 1x Civ boundary then both cities would almost certainly flip to the enemy). Worst case I should only win a few extra land tiles for each city. Best case scenario I flip one or both of the Carthaginian cities.

I have just learnt Map-making, which stops the auto-population of settlers but permits building of a very expensive settler type unit (Mass Migrants) which costs 4 population. I am aiming to end my expansion phase with a city targetting the flood plains north of Bombay (again a multi-Civ boundary area). I doubt I'll get a chance at the land across the lake west of Madras. I don't have a coastal city on the lake so I can't build a boat.

All Civs have left Despotism and moved to an early Feudalism with Code of Laws, so there is nothing interesting there. The stats show I am in the score lead, which brings heightened risk of aggression from the AI. Carthage has a surprising amount of power and an unrealistically suppressed score due to their failure to expand boundaries.

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It is all very routine until in the midst of their war with Carthage, Bismark declares war on me in 50AD. The decision is whether to fight a defensive war and persist with my cultural focus to win territory and possibly flip Carthage OR to fight alongside Carthage (presumably with a MPP) and try and stomp Germany (who has iron but no horses, I have both).

Three factors are decisive in my decision:

1) I am already in a score lead. With 2% of land area being a million miles away from the 20% victory condition and strong early game rivals like Iroquois & Persia I am mindful that the continent could end up detesting me long before I get my UU and have any military advantage. I do not want a dogpile against me.
2) The cost factor for the AI and free unit support bonus for them means even modest AI Civs will have a stronger military against me in any longer war of attrition. Germany could drag me into the trenches and a neighbour like Iroquois or the Vikings could capitalise against me.
3) I have dedicated the last 30 or so turns to a cultural campaign. To switch to military expansion is going to slow down my tech rate and leave me possibly sitting between two stools.

Cowardice is my chosen option and I assess Germany is so aggressive he'll likely end up declaring war on other neighbours and being beaten up by Persian Immortals (ending up being someone else's problem and giving me another opportunity later, when I am better placed to take it). So I just defend my territory and sue for peace with Germany at the earliest opportunity.
 
480 AD

4 centuries have passed and the known world is a changed place.

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Germany and Carthage made peace, but too late for Carthage as my strategy pays off and I flip Leptis Magna. The continent dog-piled against the Vikings, making my placement of Jaipur more aggressive as there was zero risk of a culture flip. I also manage to settle on the other side of the lake after all, with Kolhapur. The Iroquois to my west are now my main danger. They have shifted to Monarchy which loses the war weariness of Feudalism and makes them a military threat. Especially after they make peace with the Vikings. But I feel I have a strong, defensible mountainous boundary with the Iroquois. Surprising German success in Scandinavia leaves me flanked by two halves of a German empire. This makes me uncomfortable as the bulk of their doomstack is intact to my north. I feel safe while they continue to fight a plucky Viking defence.

More uncomfortable for me is the Persian Immortals south of Kolhapur. That pathing is consistent with bad intentions towards my peace loving lands. Sure enough, he declares war on me and burns Kolhapur to the ground. But by approaching me so leaden footedly I am able to sell techs for MPPs with 4x Civs on the continent that surround Persia. Smelling blood in the water 2x further Civs that I could not compel into an MPP independently declare war on Persia. The gods smile on me as Persia was looking ready to dominate the continent with his Immortals (as the power graph shows). His appalling aggression ends up with him in immediate war against 7x Civs. Who needs military alliances?

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1000 AD - When the dust settles, Persia loses 1x city each to Germany, the Ottomans, the Aztecs and Carthage (although Bactra appears to flip back to Persia from the backward Aztecs). Custom rules mean small military gains may be more frequent than giant dop-pile fuelled conquests and runaway AIs. Persia are severely hobbled but not fully out of contention as long term rivals.

My luck continues as I have saltpeter on my territory too (courtesy of the more generous PTW level appearance ratio for resources that I have reverted to despite playing Conquests). My main concern is the absence of any luxuries in my empire. I have learnt all the pre-requisite techs for luxuries and my lands are confirmed as barren. Luxuries are essential for my growing population and I have squandered my tech lead securing these over the centuries. Hence an extremely aggressive placement of Hyderabad to secure a fur tile in the chaotic Viking frontier. Perhaps I may even beguile the Viking natives of Copenhagen to overthrow their detestable German overlords.

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The Iroquois switch to Republic which makes me relax. The continent has become clearer to me. The German Monarchy has emerged strengthened from their victories in Persia and Scandinavia. They have attacked me once already. I swear to be ready with Elephants and Musketmen this time. Will Bismarck give me time to complete my educational revolution before shifting to military improvement? I am in a Monastic government (available at Monotheism - think Democracy with much more expensive unit support, a capped tech rate of 80% and an inability to buy upgrades - the quintessential non-violent government of choice). I would have preferred Republic but that would take just as long to achieve (all ancient era techs are prerequisites) and Monotheism comes with shiny Cathedrals to reinforce my cultural might. This continent shall regard me with awe!

Longer term I have heard tale of lands overseas. Some superstitious barbarians known as the Portuguese. Their government is Fundamentalist (available at Chivalry) and rumour is that every man women and child of their tribe is trained in combat and fanatically dedicated to their religion. It would be a chilling tale if they weren't so far away across a sea that I cannot yet cross. I do not think they are of much concern to me as my immediate neighbours. I remain concerned that my top ranking score will invite aggression from jealous neighbours.

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Korea has emerged as my preferred partner. Such a lovely educated people, with no resources to call their own. I have 3x Saltpeters and will empower the Korean defences with my benevolence. Once their generals confirm their military advancement I will propose a MPP between our peoples to permit an immediate response to any aggression against me. Carthage too has proven a respectable neighbour. To MPP or not to MPP. That is the question. I do not want to get drawn into unnecessary wars until my military is top notch and my government is one that does not have high war weariness.
 
1150 AD - Bismarck declares war on me in the early 11th century and turns his army in the north on me. I am lucky to repel it, thanks in large part due to my MPP with Korea kicking in and his units on my territory immediately coming to my defence. To the south I am less fortunate. Germany's MPP with Spain kicks in and between them the Germans quickly take Bengal (built on the ruins of Kholapur). I won't be building a third city there!

The way MPPs work I can offer multiple techs and the AI still won't want to join forces with me when I am at war. Very different to Military Alliances (and more realistic in my opinion). A bunch of Civs join Germany and Spain in trade embargoes against me but surprisingly no third parties join in on either side. Perhaps they sense a stalemate brewing. Korea snaffles Copenhagen off Germany from under the nose (trunks) of my War Elephants. He also takes Bengal off the Germans. I am left with no spoils as backward Germany surprises me by speedily upgrading to Pikemen (got to love a Scientific trait). My first wave of elephants are repelled at Oslo, its defence aided by a catapult. Dispirited, and with the only consolation of Korea offering a buffer to my north, I sue for peace with Germany and Spain. Bizarrely, despite me not having destroyed as single Spanish unit she offers 25 gold per turn for peace. Someone must have fed her bogus intelligence about my 'mighty' elephants.
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Around this time I learn of far off peoples and lands. I am humbled to learn I am barely in the top five in the world despite being first on my continent. The Histograph below, on default Emperor in the mid-medieval would be a sign of a human well on their way to victory and having overcome the early game difficulty spike. But with the modified cost factor the difficulty of this game is only getting started.

To my frustration the map has 2 equally sized smaller continents with comparable land quality. 1 which Egypt has all to its self (plus an archipelago to its south), the other with 6x Civs crammed in. It just goes to show, no matter how you tweak the settings, map generation can let you down. Egypt may be impossible to stop in a space race with such a (relatively) huge land mass and arcihpelago (meaning a humungous navy) essentially gifted to them on turn 1.

The large 'new world' continent has seen the demise of China and the Celts, with the Hittites soon to follow. I set about prioritising trade with mid-range powers on those lands like Netherlands and Sumeria to try and help them to repel any future aggression from the big beasts on the continent. I will try to get everyone on the continent to Gunpowder then trade them my excess saltpeter. The biggest rival Civs have 8% of the world population and 9% of territory, well off the 20% required for domination victory. By ensuring Civs with horses but no iron can eventually produce Ancient Cavalry (and later on Civs with iron but no horses can eventually build crusaders) it makes even weak Civs able to put up a fight and slow down would be runaway AIs. Realistically I would say 8 or 9 Civs have a chance of victory. I don't think there would be that many competitors in 1150AD with standard rules.

My plan is now to modernise and focus on keeping at the top table for tech. From experience on this difficulty configuration the AI can run away from me at tech in late medieval onwards as the difficulty just seems to increase gradually with each turn. I don't have the option of Military alliances to slow them down with stupid wars. If I ever find myself running out of buildings to make I will build a military and mop up the remains of the Vikings to the north and consider aggression against Carthage (after I have Cavalry). Even on this difficulty surely I can beat such minnows and keep the dreams of a domination victory alive?

I decide to hedge my bets. Keep diplomatic and space race victory conditions alive but look for any opportunities to secure easy territory against weaker foes that don't have any MPPs that might kick off a damaging wider war. I am on a run of losses at this difficulty and can feel a strong start slipping out of my control.
 

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1490 AD - I have just learnt Industrialisation.
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My wars against the demoralised Scandinavians and spread out Carthaginians both went well (although Utica, (SE of Calcutta in this screenshot but since abandoned) had 9(!) Numidian Infantry defending it. I am generous to the AI with free unit support on this custom difficulty but that is a new record. As it was just two spaces from Calcutta I wonder if the AI felt it needed this many units based in the city to prevent a culture flip? Carthage only had 6 defending it.

In the north, Korea took Copenhagen off the Germans but then it flipped to me. I picked up Reykjavik with a elephant rush but Korea with its last attack of the round stole Trondheim from under my tusks. In fit of pettyness, I built Chittagong NE of Trondheim to claim a whale and entertain a failed notion of a culture flip on Trondheim. I have a large Cavalry army with a unit cost of 50GP per turn in Democracy but I don't care. It is dissuading aggression against me while I industrialise and only Egypt has truly moved out of sight in the tech race (which is unusual, I'm usually very backward at this point but perhaps my quick wars (be they successful or failed) have really helped prevent me falling behind. I have 5% land and 7% population. The Domination victory still seems very far off and the soft targets I share boundaries with have all gone.

The stupid AI failed to clear a huge marsh SW of Hippo, so I cleared a spot and planted a city there which, once I clear the marsh, will be pretty immense. I build a very late Forbidden Palace at the earliest opportunity in Theveste.

In terms of the impact of custom rules there are few interesting developments. Below we see Henry of Portugal somehow (as Henry is wont to do) squandering a tech lead and a huge military in a Fundamentalist government (think Fascism but more corrupt and with free unit support) and his resulting big power graph presence a post or two above) losing war to the Mayans (Ancient Cavalry as top offensive unit) and Incans (no horses or Iron!) whilst Portugal entered the Industrial era. Again, by making Ancient Cavalry and Crusaders available (at a high cost and late on) I do find backwards AI Civs that just amass a huge army can make bizarre inroads against foes you think would swat them away, presumably when those rivals enter a costly unit support government like Democracy. It seems a ton of Ancient Cavalry works against Musketmen and a ton of Crusaders works against Riflemen. In this instance I think the Incans and Mayans may have had an MPP and they simply pillaged over half of Portugal's core empire before two cities, Lagos and Oporto, finally fell. Nobody is going to emerge as a competitor on this overly congested landmass now, barring a miracle. But it is too far away from me to make me want to have military ambitions there.

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The Zulus and Egyptians remain at about 10% each for population and landmass (so halfway to domination victory), but Zulu is in a world of pain despite finishing off what remained off the Hittites.

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The plucky Arabs declared war with them, which finally convinced meek and cuddly Ghengis to declare war on someone (I seriously cannot make the Mongols aggressive and successful, its a work in progress), namely the Zulus, whilst Ghengis is a Democracy (he never ceases to disappoint me). This brings backward Sumeria into the fray via an MPP. The Arabs are quite strong but because they attacked first, they lose Shanghai to the Zulus. The Mongols are almost mighty, but have a stalemate with the distracted Zulus. The Sumerians are tiny and backwards so.... they of course take Camulodunum (and I think Lugdunum) off the Zulus and are the only one to make advances in this war. It looks likely Sumeria will retake Kadesh off Zulu and emerge from nowhere to be a top competitor. It was the medieval era of the underdogs and I didn't even really interfere at all with these overseas wars.

I think I have the Zulu continent under some control (although Rome, Netherlands and Greece have all kept very quiet and could explode with a well timed attack). Egypt have dabbled in wars but seem certain to fail to get a Domination victory. So the plan is to see if I can close the tech gap on them and go for Domination victory on my continent if it looks like Egypt will win an extended space race (5x each of the 10 modules for the ship). I permit Military Alliances at the start of the space race, so the world may go ballistic at that point and help slow down an Egyptian victory push - but it seems likely they will have victory within their grasp by that time unless I get to tanks before my neighbours get infantry. I may have to aquaint myself with Trade Embargoes to try and slow Egypt down.

There are still about 10x Civs that could win this, which I am happy with.

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1782 AD - I'm a couple of turns away from amassing around 30 tanks on the German border. I've just stupidly realised I had toggled the domination win condition to 30% land and population for a game on a small map and forgot to revert to 20%. This gives me breathing room with the AI, but as domination is now my only feasible win condition due to Egypt's splendid isolation (and my tech rate being appalling due to maintaining a large army for deterrence) this is not a great development. It makes beating an inevitable Egyptian space race much harder. Worst still, England crosses Iroquois territory and suprise attacks me whilst my army is to the south facing Germany. Then on the same turn, Germany agrees a MPP with my buddies Korea. If I attack Germany now I'll have a war on three fronts (even excluding the English problem). I had planned to acquire some MPPs before attacking Germany but I've missed the boat. I honestly considered resigning at this point but there is no sign the Egyptians have started their space race yet, so perhaps there is still hope?

England are strangely advanced (2nd most in the game) but small. Their surprise attack on Bombay is appalling inept (infantry & guerillas, with only 2x units attacking as part of the surprise) but they do gain the mountains overlooking the city. As usual I cannot get an MPP with anyone whilst in wartime... except for the Aztecs! Oh boy, their ancient cavalry is sure to stand up to English infantry as they declare war, full of optimism. I offer the Americans 5x techs for an MPP but they reject it. Next turn, Abe secures his place in history by declaring war on England off his own volition, and I keep my 5x techs. Muppet!

This is enough for England to retreat its doomstack back from whence it came, surrendering its excellent defensive positions around Bombay. I harry them back during their retreat and pick off stragglers. When I arrive in England its already a mess. The Ancient era doomstacks of the Aztecs and America have ravaged English land. To my surprise I take Nottingham with my first small wave of tanks and to my mild delight it has Universal Suffrage, which should help keep me in Democracy a while longer.

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England somehow pulls off a MPP with the Greeks (mercifully on the super-continent with the Zulus) during wartime and they declare an immediate war on me despite there being no military alliances. It must be due to my tanks being on English soil? My elite Tank unit, Mahatmacoat, creates a great leader and I quickly make an army (just 1x unit rather than 3x in custom rules to prevent exploiting the AI inability to attack vanilla armies).

I'm committed to all out war now, but must keep teching as even middle of the road AIs have overtaken me tech wise now, so I do keep developing cities in my outer core. To my surprise, the AI has not prioritised Tanks (it seems to love Electronics), so at least I have that edge for now. If the English get their hands on TOW infantry my campaign against them may stall and I'd risk Nottingham flipping back to them.

As my war against England continues with suprising ease (their offensive units keep targetting American and Aztec spearmen rather than my tanks and I mop up the exposed English units) Korea shows why it wanted an MPP with Germany and declares war on my other neighbours, the Iroquois. This is what I was waiting for, the doomstacks of neighbours to be destroyed in war and I then sweep in with my army. Unfortunately, I'm tied up against the English, so the timing isn't great. The Iroquois seem pretty strong, so I have to hope they'll hold out for 20 or so turns until I can mop up the English and turn my eyes onto whoever is losing this new war (out of Germany and the Iroquois).

In the super-continent, there are a bunch of wars of attrition going on, but not much to report. The Zulus have started regaining their strength but are no longer in a dominant position. The Mongol aggression fizzled out and they sued for peace. Sumeria must now be vulnerable to a Zulu counterattack, being their only remaining foe.

I'm very disappointed by the lack of successful naval campaigns by Egypt. Settings are toggled to increase the success of attacks on other land-masses (greater speed and unit capacity of transport ships), but you wouldn't know it from seeing this game so far (it has had the desired results in Archipelago games). Despite her lack of ambition, she has switched to Communism, which should slow down her charge into Space a bit. Similarly, none of the strong Civs on the super-continent have even considered naval action against the pygmy empires on the southern island. Surely easy pickings for someone there? Of the pygmies, the Byzantines have somehow become very advanced. Perhaps there is a chance a Civ will rise to dominance on that landmass after all?

My tech focus is making a bee-line for Space Flight, when Military Alliances finally become enabled. Its my primary hope of slowing down the Egyptians by entangling them in stupid conflicts and it will help me squash the foes on my own continent. The industrial era has had similar levels of war compared to the Ancient and Medieval eras, rather than everything descending into chaos in the early Industrial era. As soon as military alliances come onto the scene I'm sure it will go ballistic. But in truth I don't know if a MA is possible only when both Civs have the tech, or if it can be done if only 1 party has the tech.

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1876 AD - I luckily got my snowball timed well. England only got TOW Infantry in their last city against me, by which time it was too late. Following her fall I then expanded my war to two fronts against the ridiculously backwards Americans and Aztecs and make light work against their pikemen and musketeers. Then the timing was beautiful as Germany made peace against the Iroquois, so they were both weakened by war and quite backwards at a time when my military production had been going for about 30 turns. A stupid amount of Indian tanks quickly steamroll Germany into oblivion.

Then Egyptians land on my continent and take a couple of quick Iroquois cities with their ludicrously advanced and strong military but I can quickly contain their advancement by taking the remainder of the Iroquois cities myself (Korea only picked up one). Finally, I turn to the small Spanish empire to my south and claim that too. That just leaves the advanced Koreans, Ottomans and Persians who all have Mech Inf and probably necessitate an upgrade to my 100 tank military (14 attack versus 18 defence). I've turned most of my continent grey.

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I'm leading with 18% of world area and 22% of population. Population should be easy to get to 30% (once captured cities regain their grandeur) but I have serious doubts my continent is even 30% of the World's land-tiles. Possibly even the two tiny adjoining islands won't be enough. I'm really making hard work of this.

With the advent of Space Flight tech (and the introduction of military alliances) the world went its usual mad Civ 3 way and constant global wars kicked off (I don't mind that so late in the game). Portugal and Greece were quickly snuffed out, with Sumeria soon to follow. My super buffed Rome (4x traits) is the main beneficiary and a genuine contender. Egypt finally makes landfall on the supercontinent with one captured city and one settlement in the ruins of a destroyed city. However, I think they've squandered their previous huge tech lead and dominance and left it too late to run through the supercontinent to a domination victory. If they ally with the Romans however either one of them could quickly race to 30% of land and population but at the moment everyone is fighting everyone else.

Things are less satisfying in that the AI got bogged down in pursuits other than the Space Race. A known issue with the AI often not prioritising the Apollo Programme (note to self: only make Military Alliances available with Superconductor and make the Apollo Programme easier to build and come with benefits to encourage uptake by the AI). Egypt will have had Space Flight for at least 60 to 80 turns by my estimation, but has only just completed its first module (or more accurately, the 5 copies of the same first module, so 45 more to go for them). I was close to awarding the AI an informal cultural victory at 100k if one of them didn't start building a spaceship soon.

Persia is at war with both Korea and the Ottomans so I think I'll have a crack at Persia whilst dedicating most of my future production towards the Space Race. If my home continent hadn't been so weak (thanks to Persia botching their attack against me in the ancient era) and/or the AI built spaceships quickly I would surely have lost this long ago with all this hedging of bets about victory conditions. As it stands, 18 of the 31 Civs remain. Myself, Egypt, Rome, Arabs, Zulus and Mongols appear to be the only ones with a hope of reaching any victory condition. That's still a decent number at this late stage. But if they don't settle down their military aggression and focus on just one or two foes each they could let me coast to victory.

The AI highlight for this post is the Ottomans calling me a "war mongering fool" and rejecting a RoP, but then in the same conversation accepting a tech swap and giving a warmongering fool sharing a large border with them 2,700 gold. So fickle!

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Government types - a review

The tiniest change to unit support for a government can switch it from 50% uptake by the AI to 0% and it seems that reducing unit support equally (by 1/1/1) for both Communism and Fascism resulted in Communism being massively favoured over Fascism (and I want a 50/50 split between them). Easily tweaked.

My progression involved a self indulgent number quick revolutions as a Religious Civ. Definitely not optimum play. So far it went:

1 - Despotism
2 - Feudalism (available at Code of Laws) - to escape the despotism penalty
3 - Monarchy - to give me a marginally stronger government type to take me into the Medieval era.
4 - Monastic (at Monotheism - think Democracy but with limits on tech rate and eye watering unit support and you can't buy units/buildings) - to get some money and tech
5 - Imperialism (at Navigation - think Republic with better unit support, but with the Xenophobic penalty) - to better afford my military
6 - Democracy - because I was falling behind on tech and I needed to sprint to tanks.
7 - Communism (during conquest of continent) - because I was in centuries of war!
8 - Democracy - to get advanced enough to tackle TOW infantry and Mech Inf during one-sided wars in my favour and to keep the Space Race victory condition open.

In this game Republic uptake by the AI is only about 50-60% (given I provide other options and only make Republic available only after all other ancient era techs have been acquired) against 90-100% in default settings. This is as intended but, due to my aforementioned mistake with Fascism settings, too many AIs are taking Plutocracy (available at The Corporation, trade bonus, no war weariness but a lot of corruption). This is a government type to help the AI transition between war and peace and also to keep teching while at war (or having lost a war and wanting to rebuild a military), but I aim for only around 5-10% uptake of my custom Governments and this appears more like 20-30% in this game (I did want take up increased, but not that much!). If I can fix Fascism then Plutocracy uptake will fall back nearer to what I intend. It also strikes me the gap between Universities and Research Labs is a bit long, with Research Labs only becoming available when the end of the game is in sight. A tinkerers work is never done.
 
1954 AD - we have a space race victory!!! :D:D:D

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But not for me.

I had forgotten that although the AI can struggle with prioritising the Apollo Programme, once they have built it they do tend to ruthlessly pursue Space Station components even when at war (which is a good thing). I attacked Persia, lost about 40 modern armour to his mech inf and it was clear an attack on the superior Ottomans (with Jet Fighters and I didn't even have Advanced Flight) or Koreans would result in slow progress AND definitely fall short of 30% of the world map I needed (I think I could have got to 27% land at most, I completely misinterpretted the map as I thought it would be about 33%).

Soooooo, it was all hands to the pump in the space race. I got to about 30 out of the required 50 components in my elongated race but Egypt beat me to it with their head start and despite ridding her from my continent there was little I could do to intervene in her space race despite her being at war with the entire world (another mistake was not establishing spies when in Communism, I just couldn't get any joy with espionage during Democracy). If I'd planted spies and focussed on turtling after knocking off the English, Americans and Aztecs I think I'd have had a shot at victory here. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and at that point in the game I thought Egypt would coast to the space race victory, so domination was my best bet.

Despite quibbles about the allocation of starting locations, even that brought some variety and a different challenge to face. Albeit a challenge I once again fell short of. A couple of really cramped continents, an expansive supercontinent and a lucky foe in Egypt that had a dream starting setup). I enjoyed the Industrial era (level of violence contained due to lack of military alliances) and the Modern Era (even though it became Battle Royale) a lot more than in default settings. It didn't feel like a slog and I felt I had different options to consider almost every turn. I think I will introduce an unofficial 140 or 150k culture victory condition (not needing your culture score to be double the nearest rival) as something feasible to give both myself and the AI to strive for (Egypt were on 151k on the last turn) since the 100k culture victory isn't really possible for the AI(?).

The above screenshot shows my old XP machine rattled through 444 turns of a 31 Civ, 206x206 map in 27hrs (an average of 3.7 minutes per turn, but only 1 minute of that per turn would be waiting in Industrial and Modern eras) which is a tribute to modification I recently learnt to enable 'air trade' from your palace (or an early and cheap small wonder). The 'end of turns' never felt like a chore and again I cannot recommend that modification highly enough if you want to play on Large or above maps.

I actually enjoyed my mistake of domination being 30/30 rather than 20/20 (which I would have won in this game, I ended up with 21% land, 29% population) as I wouldn't have played with Modern Era military units so much with a quick domination victory (for myself or the AI). So I think I'll keep that error (for non-Archipelago games at least, 20/20 is probably enough for those).

The Three Simplest Changes to the Game for a Different Experience

If the thought of a different challenge attracts you but you don't want to change the game too much I would propose the following simple (and hopefully non-contentious) changes.

1) remove all starting units for the AI at all difficulty levels.
2) reduce cost factor for the AI by 2 at all difficulty levels.
3) make Ancient Cavalry and Crusader available with a tech a two or three columns later in the tech tree than their related wonders appear (so if an AI misses a resource they can still build a halfway decent military unit in the medieval)

These are changes that even a novice with the editor can make that should slow down the killer AI snowballs we often get and give you a different experience where a backward and weak AI can potentially hang in there and punch above its weight at an opportune time.

Below is the chart showing my luck in nullifying the Persian bulge and turning an English sneak attack to my good fortune. Below that still is the late game carnage in the supercontinent. I criticised Egypt for being so slow to make landfall on that continent but in the end, she didn't need it. Ghengis Khan didn't disgrace himself for once, so that is my consolation in defeat.

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I don't have time for the Epic game, so I typically just play scenarios where I remove the MPP all together and only have MA allowed late in the game. I figured it's the MPP that creates the Royal Rumble effect for the AI. I'll need to try the opposite and see how that goes.
Also, did you use the Flintlock Mod? I don't recall reading about this in your story.

"2) reduce cost factor for the AI by 2 at all difficulty levels." Yep, great idea!!
 
I don't have time for the Epic game, so I typically just play scenarios where I remove the MPP all together and only have MA allowed late in the game. I figured it's the MPP that creates the Royal Rumble effect for the AI. I'll need to try the opposite and see how that goes.
Also, did you use the Flintlock Mod? I don't recall reading about this in your story.

"2) reduce cost factor for the AI by 2 at all difficulty levels." Yep, great idea!!
No, not Flintlock. My aim is go ger bored with simple editor changes, then try Flintlock, then try full blown mods. The game should last me another 30 years that way. :D

Hard to tell, but I think MAs are far more Battle Royale inducing than MPPs. With an early MPP and no MAs the game feels much more like how I remember Civ2 feeling. But you need to compensate by having the difficulty tailored so that any one of your neighbours can cause you serious pain with a sneak attack.
 
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