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Subject: Walk like an Egyptian... rss

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Having read JohnD's interesting analysis of his first game with Rome (shout outs to John), I decided to post my first experience of playing as the mighty Egyptians.

I should preface this by saying that this was my first game of Clash of Cultures using the Civilizations expansion. I had played about 5 times using the base game prior to this, always with 3 or 4 players. We selected Civilzations and I chose the Egyptians over the Celts for 3 reasons:
1) Because I had recently played a Theocracy/Cultural Influence strategy and done well, and I thought I could replicate this with Egypt. This being my first game with Civilizations, I wanted a fairly familiar strategy to follow.
2) Because come on, it's Egypt - how more old school Civilization can you get?
3) Because of the 'Man God' ability which had me roaring 'Maaaan God' even before I'd read what it did.

My opponents picked Phoenecia, Japan and Babylon respectively. This isn't a game report so I'll gloss over the events of the game. Suffice it to say that I won, not so much due to my own tactical brilliance and more through the others fighting amongst themselves and leaving me alone. That said I was pleased with my strategy and notched up a decent score. I made a concerted effort to acquire and use all of Egypt's unique advances as I pursued Theocracy with a healthy military, and made use of the combo of Arts and Sculptures/Conversion to frequently throw out Cultural Influence actions. Egypt are very well suited to this game plan. Man God makes the State Religion/Dogma combination even better than it is in the base game, because not only are you able to acquire Theocracy advances very quickly and cheaply, you also acquire the ability to use their Autocracy equivalents. Nationalism combined with Draft is possibly the best single government advance in my opinion, so being able to get that is a real benefit. I never got into a sustained conflict, so I didn't have much cause to use Forced Labour but I did use Absolute Power several times to gain bonus actions.

If memory serves, Man God is acquired along with Priesthood, which is an advance I always get when pursuing Theocracy because it allows you to collect resources for building Temples while acquiring free advances to keep up with the tech race. It also allows you to acquire Maths (free) which in turns allows you to acquire Engineering (free) at which point the Egyptians get Architecture. I thought Architecture was a great advance because it frequently allowed me to build city pieces a turn early by replacing the relevant resource with mood. I was able to build several infantry early despite a scarcity of Ore, by using mood instead of Ore when building temples. Later on I built a wonder I wouldn't otherwise have been able to afford, again because of mood. One thing I realised however was that the Egyptians can be quite "mood hungry" as mood is used for most of the autocracy advances, and for Architecture. I wasn't short of mood, having built 3 temples and a port, but still I felt the need to get Rituals to allow me to spend resources on Civic Improvements and conserve my happy tokens.

As it happens, Rituals is required to acquire Embalming. I found this the most underwhelming of Egypt's unique advances, although this is almost certainly because I didn't get into a sustained conflict in the game so I only fought 1 battle after I'd acquired Rituals and I already had 4 culture tokens at that point. Regardless of my experience in this game, I think Embalming is a bit of a lottery, because you only get a culture token if you have less than 4 already, and it doesn't allow you to acquire culture tokens above your culture limit as defined by the number of culture-related techs you've researched. I didn't find myself short of culture generally, so Embalming didn't do anything for me. If I had been short of culture I might well have acquired Bartering rather than Rituals and spent resources to acquire Culture Tokens instead.

I had mixed feelings about Flood Plains - almost certainly the first of the unique advances any Egypt player will acquire. In the pro column it's thematic, it gives you greater flexibility over collections from your starting tile (up to 3 food or 3 timber could be collected) and you can establish subsequent cities on almost any tile. This last point takes a lot of risk out of exploring with Settlers as you won't have to spend an extra move action to move off a barren hex to found a new city. In the con column I thought it forced a predictable opening of Irrigation > Civic Improvement > Collect 2 food. A lot of players start the base game like this, and Flood Plains combined with Egypt's starting tile make it effectively mandatory, while other Civilizations get the possibility of a more interesting opening. Overall I'm marginally in favour of Flood Plains but it's not as interesting as Man God or Architecture.

Throughout the game I used all three Leaders: Imhotep > Ramses II > Cleopatra. They were all OK, but I felt like the Leaders of other factions seemed to do more interesting things. Imhotep needs to be positioned in a city that's likely to grow and build soldiers to get the most out of him. Arguably he makes regular drafting better because one mood token gains you a unit and an idea, and if you have Nationalism you get the mood token back. Ramses II makes Obelisks, which I thought were the least appealing of the new city pieces, much more rewarding to build. Cleopatra was particularly good for the end game in that she can make your main city a less appealing target providing you're willing to spend the culture tokens. This is especially effective if your opponents have been spending culture tokens to reverse your Cultural Influence snipes. Her +1 range on Cultural Influence is also very helpful.

To conclude, I enjoyed playing Egypt and I thought the designers got the feel pretty much right. If I had to be critical I'd say that it would be hard to be flexible with them: you basically have to get Flood Plains, and if you don't go down the Myths > Theocracy > Man God route you might as well have picked a different faction. The counter-argument would be that Man God can be played two ways: firstly, as I did, to support a Cultural Influence strategy by providing a cheap defense force and a few extra actions or secondly as an all-out jihad with occasional Cultural Influence attempts on the few cities you're not trying to actively conquer. If I play Egypt again, this is definitely what I'm going to try.
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Addendum
Having thought more about Egypt in the days following the game, I've reconsidered one of my initial reactions to playing them: namely that Egypt is heavily influenced to go down the Man God - Theocracy/Autocracy route. I spent some time thinking about what an Egyptian player would get out of playing Democracy instead and concluded quite a lot, actually. In an Egyptian Democracy, the key would be the Architecture advance which allows Egypt to spend mood tokens to build wonders and city pieces. Democracy offers 3 advantages in this respect:
1) Free Education combined with Public Education and Academies creates a 'mood engine', and both of these techs are on the Education tech tree which is required for Democracy. Also, Free & Public Education and Philosophy are all 'mood' techs so they provide 3 mood just for getting them.
2) Democracy removes the distraction of potentially spending mood tokens on Forced Labor/Absolute Power. It's true that, once Economic Liberty has been researched, mood would be required to make more than one collection per turn. However, this is unlikely to be required that often when using Egypt because of...
3) Civil Liberties provides 3 mood tokens for no resource cost. This advance (which I frequently don't bother with in vanilla Clash of Cultures) is essentially a free collection which doesn't require activating a city and produces effectively 3 gold once you have Architecture. I usually find Democracies are "action rich" because of Economic liberties but can struggle because one or two cities are trying to collect and build everything. Civil Liberties/Architecture pretty much solves this problem.

As I see it, the Egyptian Democracy would start similarly to a vanilla Democracy strategy but would aim to acquire Engineering quickly to use the mood tokens from acquiring Free & Public Education to help build early academies. Once Economic Liberty is established, Civil Liberties can be used to pay for city pieces in whichever city didn't collect while resources are stockpiled for objectives, wonders or armies. This last point is worth mentioning as Civil Liberties makes Draft more expensive, so Food and Ore are worth hoarding to enable quick response to threats. Myths is well worth researching as temples can be bought for 3 mood (or 2 with State Religion) but then provide a mood token when built - like getting cash back on your purchase. Also Priesthood might be worth it for the ability to research Science advances for free, providing ideas from Philosophy, which will be converted into mood by Free Education. I generally wouldn't advise waiting until Myths, Priesthood and Mathematics are acquired to get Engineering for no food cost because I think that will waste the opportunity of an extremely quick start that could be had by just paying for Engineering early.

The Egyptian leaders Imhotep and Ramses II dovetail with this strategy very nicely. Imhotep makes Apothecaries absurdly cheap so they become quick and easy additions to cities which make Economic Liberty even better. He also provides Ideas which further fuel the Free Education mood engine. Ramses II provides Ideas/Culture when obelisks are built, though this is slightly less useful as the Culture tech tree is not directly required by this strategy. Still, if Culture is pursued it yields a free Cultural Influence ability - handy to ward off other Theocracies - and some potentially useful tech in Monuments (handy as this strategy could potentially build more than one wonder), Circus and Sports (which synchs with voting) and Drama and Music to provide even more mood!
 
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