Well, we just did it again. David, Darryl and Nick again turned up to play Advanced Civilization with Julie and me (Travis), this time having persuaded Kylie to make up six (as Tracy couldn't make it). Kylie had first choice of nation, and having read a beginner's guide she grabbed Babylon. Nick followed that up with Assyria and David chose Egypt. Julie gladly chose Italy - she was familiar with the territory from the last game, so wanted to stick with the same nation. I didn't feel like squishing myself beside David's Egypt, and was tempted by Crete but in the end I decided to try out Thrace. Darryl had last choice, and decided he didn't want to try to squeeze into the gap between Julie and me, nor compete with me directly with Crete (because Darryl and I have a tendency to nuke each other if we are close together in almost any game), so he took Africa.
The opening was pretty standard for most of us, but I screwed up and couldn't build the cities I wanted in turn 6 - I hadn't worked out how to negotiate the Greek bottlenecks correctly yet. And while Julie wasn't pressured by Illyria this time, she still didn't manage to expand properly, and hampered her development that way. However, soon enough we got through the initial stages and came out pretty even.
David shook things up by purchasing Military early. This pushed Darryl around towards Julie and me (mostly Julie), hampering him a bit. Nick sustained nine cities for quite a while (losing and rebuilding only one or two each turn, if that). I wore the calamities that he didn't, and had a long stretch during which I could not sustain my cities properly. Nick used his relatively disaster-free time to buy the advanced that mitigate calamities, so later in the game when calamities did start hitting him, he wasn't too worried. This being Kylie's first game, she probably handled things a little suboptimally, and after a while she was falling significantly behind in advances. Julie briefly hit nine cities, but only for a turn, and then she spent the rest of the game in the 5-7 range.
At one point, I managed a long run during which I collected maximum-size sets. It started when I ended up with three wine and three cloth at the end of a turn. Rather than turn them in for relatively little benefit, I decided to hold them and see if I could build on them in the next turn. I traded for all the wine and cloth that was drawn, but there was still a cloth card that hadn't come up, so I spent the wine and kept the cloth. Next turn, I completed the cloth set, and the trades happened to give me four grain. I spent the cloth and saved the grain. People were willing to give me the grain in the next turn, and I ended up with three spice as well. Spend the grain, collect the spice. It was quite an impressive sequence. At a later point, I also ended up with all of the resin and all bar one of the spice, which I couldn't get from David because I ran out of stuff to give him. We both saved our spice, me to get the full set and him because he knew he had a sure trade.
Nick, David and I all bought Mining at about the same time, leading to gold wars. We all became unwilling to give up gold, because there was just so little to compare in value, even if we only had one or two. It so happened that all of the resin and spice came out (and into my hand, bar that single spice of David's) in the same turn that Nick bought Mining, and I got hit hard with calamities that reduce me to four cities and not a lot of units on the board. Nick had saved four gold cards, hoping to use Mining to bring the set to full value on the next turn, but I knew that the single card left in the seven pile was Civil Disorder. I couldn't build to eight cities, because I lacked the units, and building to seven cities would force me to draw the Civil Disorder. So, I decided to forgo the extra city and I used the tokens to attack one of Nick's cities instead, thus stealing one of his precious (to both of us) gold. He bewailed the attack, but settled down when I pointed out that a minimum 36 points was much better for me than Civil Disorder. Now he knows. I still managed to repeat a raid for gold later, but missed his hoard and stole oil instead.
Going into the end game, I got held up on the AST by a lack of cities repeatedly. Nick caught me up and overtook me, with him, David and me buying up advances quickly. In the last turn of the game, David and Nick each completed a full set of advances. I missed out only on Military. (The last couple of turns were very unlucky for me. One turn, I drew eight cards, and four of them were calamities! They were all tradable, but who wants to trade with you when you've got nothing in your hand but calamities? And I couldn't draw to my sets to save my life. And in the last turn, Nick drew the trade cards I needed, but didn't need to trade, and simply sat on them. I didn't care who had them, as long as they were in play, but in Nick's hand they weren't!) Again, Nick came out of the calamities phase almost untouched, so he won by somewhat over 200 points. (Can't remember exact scores, mostly.) David came second with exactly 5000 points, and I was about 300 or so behind that. Darryl had about 4000 points, Kylie about 3000 and Julie 2600-odd.
Again, it was a very enjoyable game, and we intend to do it again sometime. It is good to see Darryl's play improving, so that next time he might be up with the three front-runners, and Julie is getting a handle on the strategies of the game too. Julie wanted to set a date for the next game - she wants to ensure that she plays again before she forgets all she has learnt in the last two games. However, I put the kibosh on that, because we have some roleplaying played which will take up several weekends in the next two months for her, me and Darryl, and David has a fortnightly RPG campaign restarting in a few weeks too. So, we have resolved to meet again in March - perhaps with seven or even eight players this time.