A Mermaid zero-city win, despite nine other cities being built. This was a five-player FTF game. Our local group uses a house rule start to increase the variety of factions played. Each player draws three faction tiles from the bag, drops them onto the board, and picks from the three face up choices.
We were on the original map. The network victory condition was most settlements (having the most non-adjacent groups of buildings/ individual buildings, that are still connected). The round bonuses in order were spade, trading posts, trading posts, dwellings, dwellings, big buildings (SH/SA). The two bonus tiles not in play were trading post/worker and priest. In order, the players chose Dwarves, Witches, Yetis on brown, Mermaids (me), and Acolytes.
So, five players, grey, green, brown, blue, black, I figure the map and the wheel are going to be kind of tight. There is no city bonus in play (except for the Witches of course, who always have a city bonus in play). On the other hand, both boat tiles are in the game. I decided to go all in for dispersal and forget cities.
The first turn went well for me. Picking bonus tile second, I got the +3 power/+1 temporary boat tile. The priest by power action was still available when it got around to me so I burned 3 power out of the game to buy that. I used it to buy a boat of course, giving me 2 permanent and 3 with the bonus tile. I end up with six dwellings on the board at the end of the first turn, all the western blues.
Based on factions, positions, and who the players are, I figure the Witches are the ones I need to throw some shade on. I passed a little early on the second turn, to get ahead of the Witches and to get the +3 power/ +1 boat tile back. This lets me start turn three with suddenly a 3 boat reach again and enough power to take the two spade power action on my first turn. I transform a space right next to the Witches SH which he badly needed and build on it. He was......not pleased.
Most of the game for me was getting boats, sailing around and building cheap dwellings everywhere I could. I also passed a bit early on the fifth turn because I had the chance to grab the boat bonus point tile for the last round and I already had four boats by then.
On the last turn, I built my SH for five bonus points plus five more for the free (fifth) boat it gave me, and I improved my spade for six points. Then I got fifteen bonus points for boats, nice. You gotta love that boat bonus point tile when you're the Mermaids baby.
I took first place on network/ number of separate settlements (nine). The Witches' free broomstick dwelling thing got them second on network. I never spent anything on a cult track. The priests I got went to boats, duh, and to the one spade improvement. I had the +1 cult bonus tile once which I had taken for money but I passed early that turn and gave up the placement. I stumbled into exactly one cult point, by being tied for third on blue off of my original two blue start.
Getting up in the Witches grill was really the key tactical move in the game for me. He was eventually able to build two cities built anyway, but it slowed him down. The Acolytes managed three cities, the Yetis and Dwarves two each.
Despite all the points and stuff everyone else got for all their cites, I won with no cities. The Witches were second. The Acolytes and Yetis tied for third and Dwarves finished last.