I had finished the obligatory .34 game as Auric "Snow White" of the Illians (good times) and I was wondering what to do for my next game. Typically I play a relaxed builder-style game as the Elohim or the Khazak, waiting until my tech lead is so great that a crack squad of elite troops can crush all opposition while I laugh nefariously and twirl my mustache from an angled throne. However, you can only play so many games of tech-zilla before that gets to be old-hat so I decided to play differently; aggressively. Stupidly so. I looked over the usual suspects (Jonas, Tasanke, Mahala) but then I noticed that Sabathiel had been taking night courses in public speaking and was now Charismatic/Organized, a change from the last time I played as him. I also recalled that the Crusade civic had been tweaked so I hopped in the zeal-mobile (bumpersticker "Give Peace a chance... OR ELSE!") with Sabby in the passenger seat and headed off to meet the Bannor. We were gonna tell campfire stories about the exodus from hell, roast marshmallows on the inquisitional pyres and take turns braiding each other's prayer beads. It was gonna be great! The Map: Pangea, Low Sea Level, Living World, Raging Barbs, No Tech Trading The Difficulty: Emperor The Rivals: 9 civs, all random It turns out the Bannor had clawed their way out of hell and onto a forsaken hinterland of Erebus. Forests covered most everything (that much oxygen makes my people giddy; a very un-Bannor emotion) but a little hiking found some open land with a river and some incense. We set up shop, got a dog, met the neighbors (Jonas "Mean Green" of Embers, Charadon "Wolfman" of Doviello, and Carditha Lorda "Wyrmling" of the Kuriotates) and repelled wave after wave of slathering barbarians. My expansion was blocked by the clan and it seemed that the world had it in for the Bannor. The adventurer I rescued from Bridigan's Well was caught torturing prisoners and my ONLY option was to disband him (seriously, my only option; I assume because I hadn't spent any of his XP or because of his unit-type), Orthus spawned nearby and lowered the local property value (he didn't have a license to carry a fire armament so I had to confiscate it from him) and it seems the Bannor taste irresistible to giant spiders (you'd think it would be full from the three warriors it ate, but no, it had room to muscle down that settler they were guarding too). By the end of the early phase I had three cities, no copper anywhere in sight and I was at the bottom of the scoreboard. Go, Go, Good Team! The Bannor and the Clan don't really get along. I suspected they gave Orthus my address, though I couldn't prove anything, and anytime they sat down those spikes tore up all my throw-covers. Plus they are the twisted descendants of those Bannor who didn't get sucked into hell when the Angel of Fire did a belly-flop on our main temple almost two ages ago. No one wants to see that next door. So we preemptively defended ourselves. Very preemptively. Right in their spikey, upholstery destroying faces. My metal-less axemen led the charge and took (among others) the clan capital... then promptly lost it. It turns out the clan had been busy fighting the Hippus but once their main force got home and found a bunch of pink-skins riffling through their stuff they got a little genocidal. Was it something I said? Since the clan were in tight with the barbs they had expanded like crazy and had more than three times the cities I had. Furthermore, their land contained 1) copper, 2) ample floodplains and 3) happy resources (my people were having to make due huffing incense in pagan temples and basking in the warm glow of Sabby's personality). I had researched Iron working in a desperate bid for survival and it seems that Erebus, like the Bannorian Preemptive Defense Force, is anemic. Crap! The Bannor at this time were pagan so we prayed to the three gods whose mana we were using: Junil (God of Law), Kilmorph (Goddess of the Earth) and Sirona (Goddess of Spirit and all things Enya). With the green tide rising it seemed like we had escaped hell only to be paved over by some irrationally angry neighbors (it's not like we razed any of those cities... we just kept a few souvenirs... like all the gold. It's very shiny you see and.... WHAT?!). However, Kilmorph must have been feeling bored since the only dwarves on this map, the Luchirp, had been part of the early die off when the barbs came a-knockin' (something about being three feet tall and prone to playing with toys)... Anyway, Kilmorph got major points for style AND timing when a mine right next to my capital popped copper. Overnight the traditional Bannor weapon of "a really big stick and a sneer" was replaced with a dapper looking ax-and-shield ensemble and the orcs were driven back... in style! It turns out killing the enemy is a viable war-time tactic. Good to know. It was awkward but we were only 4 turns away from discovering The Order so I had to return Kilmorph's calls and tell her that, despite her very impressive work saving our civilization and all, I had to let her go. "I'm sorry but the Bannor are a very sensitive people and they need the security and long term commitment that we know Junil will offer. However, before moving in he made us promise we would have no other god before him so the whole 'pagan' thing is out. I'm really sorry. You were great, this isn't about you and feel free to use me as a reference if you apply for any other pantheons." With The Order founded and a temporary peace declared with the orcs we had the time to research Fanaticism and spread the Good Word to all (three) cities of the newly renamed Holy Bannor Empire. We even ordered new stationary AND letterhead; Sabathiel is an old roommate of Kinko, Goddess of Office Supplies, and got us a great deal. Thanks Sabby; you're the best. The three turns of anarchy that it costs to enter Crusade mode (unless you're spiritual) marked the revision of the Bannor calender. After order was restored it was year 1 AC (Anno Crusadae) and suddenly every 1st and 2nd son was leaving their towns and joining the ranks of the Demagogues. It was a Jihad for Justice and it wouldn't end until it was Just Us. Sabby liked that slogan so much he was about to order banners printed until I reminded him that our civilization hadn't bothered discovering an alphabet. He went into a sulk until I agreed to play him at a few games of Somnium; I let him win the tie-breaker. With the blessings of our confessors we were able to get a lot of mileage out of our eager new recruits. The orcs had a lot of troops but ridiculous orcish breeding is no match for a well spun PR campaign. One by one the Clan's cities were taken and the hordes protecting them were broken. An acolyte would enter the city and paint a really cool mural of Junil pointing at the viewer with the caption "I want YOU for the Bannorian Crusade" (in pictographs). This would quell rebellion and expand the city's borders, then a confessor would come in and gently ease the locals through the transition from worshiping their false nature god to worshiping Junil; by "ease" I mean "brutally inquisition" and by "gently" I mean "with the aid of red hot pokers". So, the orcs were laid low by the proud and smelly Bannor and we were just getting ready to call it a Jihad Well Done when we noticed that a rich vein of iron was just laying there, untapped right across our Southern borders in Doviello land. Well, those demagogues were rentals anyway so why not? It's not like we were getting the deposit back at this point... It is at this moment I feel I should explain that the hardships initially arrayed against the Bannor (plus that whole "escaping hell" thing) had altered my people's priorities. We had no concept of money (the only currency of REAL value is faith and not some sissy gold disc-thingy), no concept of sanitation (body odor is Junil's way of reminding you to go to church more often and breath in that incense. Clears the sinuses AND the conscience), no concept of the arch (though the lack of bridges did help the aforementioned lack of bathing), no concept of maps (the only place you need to go is "towards the enemy") and no concept of writing (if you ever forget the truth, just ask your local confessor. They have the answers to all the questions your allowed to ask). All cities are taken by mobs and superunits; I have never once bombarded a city, unless you count Sphener's short lived tactic of flying over enemy cities and dropping demagogues on them. Without a single market, our economy was supported by spoils of war, the tithing of the faithful (thank you Holy City) and Sabby's awesome organizational talents (the guy tears through paperwork like a Drowned through moist towelettes). Since this was a crusade we couldn't build courthouses and the Bannor refused to sack a single city (during the Call to Crusade, Sabby said "we should bring the truth of Junil to every city on Erebus" but forgot to mention "except those boondocks that we can't afford". Some orator he turned out to be. I put him in time out for that). The doviello put up a good fight for a while but eventually their highly promoted forces were too tired from slaughtering thousands of demagogues to resist our OTHER thousands of demagogues (there's a price break if you buy them in bulk and Sabby insisted... I can't say no to his pouty face). It is at this time that I stood back and looked at my empire. Sprawling, underdeveloped, hemorrhaging money like wounded piggy bank, with more mega-temples of Junil (25 and counting) than workers (2 and dropping... darn enemy calvary). It was glorious and I was finally ready to use that OTHER civic, Social Order, with the hope of someday bringing my research slider above 20%. Then Os-Gabella showed up, that tyrannical she-devil, and ruined everything. Having eaten and/or converted all the smaller fish in my pond, I was feeling pretty high on the food chain until Os-Gabella showed up and reminded me of the one good quote from Episode One: there is always a bigger fish. My score had just crested 1000 and her was... 3086?!? It seemed there was a lot more of Erebus to conquer than I'd thought, and furthermore it seemed most of that was purple and full of bad ideas. She declared war and her mithril wielding war-chariots, sorcerers and arquebusiers(!?!) came charging into the recently taken Doviello lands. Yes, the Sheaim had gun powder and we didn't even have alphabet soup. Plus she beat Sabby at Somnium and was a real jerk about it. How petty. Presently, the war to the south is a bloody stalemate where I trade two demagogues for every blunderbuss and my crusaders keep getting caught in the tar demons. I have wiped out the doviello, mainly so MY new cities would quit complaining about "yearning for our motherland". I am your motherland now, and Junil is the very strict, authoritarian father who will beat your behind so hard once he gets home young man... Also the Hippus got uppity and declared war; you only get to make one mistake when the other guy is in crusade mode. So I had to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women; I guess they didn't know "mare riding poofta" was a term of endearment in traditional Bannorian. After centuries of whining I have allowed my adepts to research writing, on the sole condition that they only think holy thoughts while plumbing the depths of the arcane and that they don't accidentally teach my people how to read. Despite the bleakness of the situation, the Bannor are a stoic people who don't know the meaning of the word "defeat". Literally. They haven't since 135ac when Priori Forsinth declared the word a blasphemy unto Junil and had it purged from the vernacular. In fact "retreat", "can't" and "we demand a republic" are all on probationary status. I am losing about 18gp per turn at 0% research (with all my cities set to emphasize money) and am only staying afloat financially through periodic golden ages and, of course, the spoils of my every expanding empire. And something like +70gp from my Holy Shrine (Rule of Acquisition #104: Faith can move mountains... of inventory). The Kuriotates keep saying that if I just allowed for the laissez faire exchange of goods and services in an open market economy then I would be able to turn a... what did they call it again? Oh yeah, prah-fitt. Sounds funny. Besides, if I listened to those fancy pants, soap-users I wouldn't be where I was today... Hmm, maybe that's their point. "But why don't you end the crusade", I hear you say. Just bite the bullet and toggle your civics. I saved and tried just that, and here's the funny part: I can't. Crusade gives you a -75% war weariness and the Bannor Palace gives an additional -10% to your entire civ. That means that my people use the pine boxes their sons keep coming back in to fuel the fires of all the effigies of our enemies they are burning. However, if I drop that than I am dealing with an 8 to 10 increase in unhappiness in each city. Plus, I have an army that is more than 70% demagogues who will return home and demand veteran benefits/ROTC money once the crusade ends. I don't think Sphener plus my four paladins (Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde) can paddle back the tide by themselves. I am facing the question of "How do I compete against a larger, more developed and many-orders-of-magnitude more advanced, omnicidal evil empire?" My answer is to throw demagogues at it. It's not a good answer, it's not a smart answer but it's the only answer I've got. And finally Os-Gabella doesn't just decline peace talks, she obliterates them. She feeds delegates to her pit beasts while smugly pointing at the ranking board where it shows the Sheaim as being nearly 3x higher in score than the Bannor. I can see why Paul Atreides was reluctant to call off the Jihad; you give the people a long enough break from fighting and they'll wonder why they've been fighting so long in the first place. This has been the most fun I have ever had playing FfH and I have been playing since early Fire, back when Sabby was Magic Resistant and Pyre Zombies weren't the explosive stack destroyers of doom they are now. I am looking forward to seeing where and when my empire comes crashing to a glorious and devastating halt. Maybe I'll relinquish a bunch of cities as a separate colony/civ (and get some weird offspring like Svaltfar... I demand a blood test!). Maybe I'll finish building the Mercurian Gate and my tens of thousands of military losses will just fuel the war machine of my angelic battle buddies (it'll be an afterlife exchange program). I only wish I had taken gobs of screen shots so I can transform this into a proper recounting, complete with hackneyed, in-screen MS-Paint arrows and text. I have a few observations that I'd like to convey for anyone that is still reading at this point. 1) Charismatic is a VERY powerful trait. With it every city, once it is grown has one extra tile worked than it would otherwise. On the low end that's +1/1/0 from an unimproved plains and on the high end that's a +2/0/5 from a riverside town (or as I like to call them, Demagogue Nests). Furthermore, promotions are MUCH more powerful in FfH than vanilla civ making that 25% xp cost reduction so much sweeter. Most greenhorn units are just one victory away from combat 1 and shock/cover/whatever. 2) Crusade is awesome! Since it actually gives free unit support now it allows you to expand like a freshman's waistline. I went from having 3 rather crappy cities around turn 175 to making a respectable bid for world domination. And that's while I was intentionally playing stupidly (seriously, markets, bridges and an additional +1 food from farms would turn my whole empire around). Just make sure you have sufficient workers going into the crusade; I had four, all of whom were destroyed by wolf riders. I've been having to make due with the slaves (former Demagogues) I have been liberating from Os-Gabella. Not pretty. 3) Order + Law Mana = huge empire. Since I can't stop and build court houses I am having to make due with basilicas and 5 law mana. That's a -65% on city maintenance right there. Of course, where I actually HAVE a courthouse I pay no maintenance. Mmmm... Totalitarianism never tasted so good. 4) The Archery line still sucks. Training Yards cost the same as Archery ranges. Archers cost the same as Ax/Swordmen. Sure archers make better city defenders but pillaging hurts (as I am well aware from my lack of workers) and mobs of units can overcome all (as I am VERY well aware from the high demagogue diet I have been feeding my enemies). Furthermore, An axeman with copper has 5 attack AND defense (easy enough to come by) while an archer still has 3 attack and 5 defense. Unless your the Ljos it doesn't really make sense to go archery instead of metal. 5) Don't underestimate Bless or Courage. The former is a free +1 to strength; even more if the enemy is undead (weakness to holy) or demonic (weakness to holy AND bonus vs demon). The latter is the equivalent to a free medic 1 for all your units AND an immunity to fear. Note that fear, which formerly was a fairly minor ability unless you were Acheron, in .34 has teeth. In my previous Illian game I had a hard time getting my otherwise superior forces to face down some scary undead. 6) Fend for Themselves is NOT worthless. Early on, sure what do you care about one health or none vs. low or medium upkeep. Later on this makes a huge difference (about 25gp/turn for me, with an ORGANIZED leader, which is enough to let my bloated empire dodge the inevitable collapse a little longer). 7) Unyielding Order must do more than reduce maintenance and unhappiness. I have had cities with no unhappiness problems (happy > unhappy) and a maintenance cost of, let's say, 10gp/turn. A priori casts Unyielding Order and suddenly I am saving 25gp/turn. I don't have more people working tiles and it's not just the maintenance cost of that city... UnOr must remove that city from counting against the total number of cities you possess. Going from 45 to 44 cities can save you a big chunk of change. More generally I would like to thank Kael and the entire Dev team for making an inspiring game that has out competed "professional/pay" games for my attention. Consistently. For more than a year. Ditto to you mod-modders who have helped fill in those lulls between the big releases as well as brimming with good ideas that Kael and co. can snipe to everyone's benefit. If you wish to run your own version of the Unwashed Crusade(tm) observe the following guidelines: 1) Play Bannor and crusade both EARLY and OFTEN. You don't have to play as Sabby (though I advise it). If you like unrestricted leaders then maybe Kandros Fir would work well (mmm, agressive. Mmm, financial!). 2) Never sack a city. Ever. Even if it sucks. Especially if it sucks. 3) Don't research any non-military tech unless you absolutely have to. And even then, maybe not. This excludes those early resource techs like animal husbandry and calendar. Your people may be illiterate but they aren't (that) stupid. 4) Convert every city you can to your faith. If you don't go with The Order than go with Runes of Kilmorph; I owe her one. 5) Inquisition every other religion from your cities. With extreme prejudice. 6) There is NO rule six.