El-ad David Amir
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Following a game of Ra, our group has once again decided to up the ante and crack open the addictive Civilization. Attending were Alex, as America, Jan as India, Andreas as Rome and myself as China.



An interesting selection of powerful starting wonders (plus the Oracle...).



And we're off to a standard opening. This entire game is going to be characterized by an abundance of water- a fact that will be further revealed on the next turn.



Still no commitments to any strategies. India's School of Confuscius is worrying, although it does dictate his Level 2 technology (since it's behind a small sea). By now we see that China is an island, with a tiny land bridge to America; and Rome is nearly an island itself. Therefore, India's Sailing would prove to be unusually threatening.



The game moves idly by. I had the misfortune of having the barbarians draw two 3s, costing me a unit. India's Great General would prove to be instrumental, as its combination with Metalworking allows him to dance around my territory freely. India's flags will be running around my territory for the next turns, threatening cities and pressuring me into building more units than I would usually want.



Feudalism allows me to utilize my second city for something other than 1 Culture. Once again, the Barbarians I am attacking are unusually formidable (two 3s...), costing me another unit.



This game is unusual in that that all players got their third city- this is different than our other FaF games, where some opt to forfeit their third in favor of a stronger technological backbone. I start advancing on the Culture track and rebuff my army using We Love the Despot Day. Thwarting the Oracle was meant to slow down India's culture a bit, but, more importantly, to prevent him from getting another military edge.



More of India's actions are being cancelled, as his threat is evident, both militarily and culturally. Meanwhile, America surprises us with a wonders blitz, to Rome's disdain (the purchase of cheap wonders off the market means his Culture acquisition will become more difficult). The construction of Himeji Samurai Castle is further worrying, especially since all three of us are going Culture and need Metal Casting (hence no Gunpowder).

Despite my wishes to buy the Louvre, I think it's unlikely I would get it- with only one Scout, wasted We Love the Despot, and being last on next turn's City Management.

Finally, I would like to comment on Zheng He's appearance; India has been debating long and hard on whether to attack the village, and Zheng He supplied him with the answer, plus with a scan of all of the spies and nukes currently available.



This turn was characterized by an especially lengthy Trade phase- Rome was insistent on getting that Coin off India. Eventually, a three-way trade was formed, where Rome gives America Trade, America gives India their Village, and India promises Rome a future Coin. Needless to say, that Coin is crucial for Rome (in order to activate Endowment). All three Culture players advance on the track, and India and Rome catch up with me; this will be a close race. Meanwhile, America proves its industrial might by buying Cristo Redentor, allowing him to participate in the Culture cards flurry; and I almost finish setting up my Culture engine. Finally, America starts pushing its flags towards my territory.



America continues gearing up for war, building the Panama Canal for investment Coins, and planning a five-flags push on my capital. I advance on the Culture track, receive a much needed Great General, and decide to play Ada Lovelace now, fearing a Mass Defection. India surprises with Akira Kurosawa, a perfect Great Person in this specific game; he will end up generating eight Culture, almost as much as the Louvre. During the Movement phase, I finally manage to dispose of the two pesky flags India had around my territory. Fortunately, he has chosen to combine them to one stack (on top of one of China 3's Forests) rather than split them and block both Universities.



Surprisingly, Rome plays Khalid ibn Al-Walid; according to him, he fears America building Branderburg Gate, although I fail to see why would America replace either Himeji, Panama Canal or Cristo for Branderburg at this stage of the game... Personally, I would have kept Khalid for a possible snatch on the last turn, in case a tie for the Culture victory was evident. With that said, moving the Starting Player marker is encouraging to me: I believe the true race is between India and myself, and keeping the Starting Player away from India means I have a higher chance of winning. America continues production of Mounted units, while the rest of us advance on the Culture track as fast as possible.



The game's finale proves itself to be less climatic than hoped...

First, I only now noticed that I forgot to replace my Great Artist after building a Library on top of it (thanks Jan for reminding me).

Second, India attempts to Sabotage Rome's two Barracks; Rome wastes his Civil Service to prevent this, although it's unclear what purpose these Barracks serve this late (Rome's flags has never left his territory the entire game).

Finally, I have examined the board's position: Rome cannot achieve a Culture victory this turn. I have both Primetime TVs and I have drawn one Jousting Tournament during the game; therefore there is at most one Jousting Tournament (India or America) and one Civil Service (America) among the other players. I plan to Primetime TV India's Metalcasting, and, in the event of Jousting Tournament, hope for America's Civil Service; if not, I would spend my own second Primetime TV. I stockpile Culture tokens for Joan of Arc just as an insurance policy, as I guess that India and Rome will have the flag killers needed to stop America's attack.

However, despite this meticulous planning and the fact that events unfolded as I expected, India pulls one last bunny: Frank Lloyd Wright, who supplies India with enough Culture to claim a Culture victory this turn.

India is victorious!

Disappointingly, this game was wrought with mistakes on my behalf.

1) The placement of my second city was disasterous. After revealing my first tile, I had an option to get a turn 2 city surrounded by 4 Trade, 1 Hammer, Wheat and two Grasslands. Alternatively, I could wait a turn and get 6 Trade, 1 Hammer and one Grasslands. Not liking either option, I researched Horseback Riding, and did indeed reveal a third option, a 1 Trade, 6 Hammers location.

After some deliberation, I have chosen the 6 Trade position, despite knowing it will be severely limited as far as city actions are concerned. The error behind this move is obvious: insisting on just two additional Trade per turn instead of taking the Grasslands option is irrelevant on the long term, since these Grasslands will have Libraries (thanks to the Grain) which will be upgraded to Universities.

1a) This city placement played a role in me choosing Feudalism as a form of government (I wanted to be able to utilize the city's action). If the city was placed next to the Grain, I could have safely picked another form of government, such as Monarchy; and the low dependence on Incense would have meant I can get a level 3 Tech other than Metalcasting.

2) Next, my technology route was not planned well. The lack of hand size and access to Coins has been detrimental. In retrospect, my first technology should have been Pottery, allowing me to invest in Endowment and giving me more flexibility in my hand size. This should have been followed by Horseback Riding, then Chivalry, Animal Husbandry and Irrigation.

3) I have been impatient with my Incense. There was no reason to burn it on Chivalry during the early turns; I should have waited and kept an option to skip Incense gathering. In other words, once you plan on having both Chivalry and Metalcasting, Chivalry's resource ability can wait (since you can always burn twice on a single turn, and I knew I won't have sources for two Incense).

4) Forgetting to replace my Great Artist has been disasterous, to say the least. Between the wasted turns and Ada Lovelace, this has cost me eight Culture; one more step on the Culture track... Exactly how much I needed to win the game before India.

5) Finally, I should have cancelled BOTH Chivalry and Metalcasting (cancelling Chivalry would cost India just two Culture, since he had Currency and ample huts, but these two Culture could have been significant; we didn't tally the numbers). I knew that India had several unrevealed Great People, and while I knew that the Great General is irrelevant, I still don't have the rest of the Great People memorized. The odds in favor of America having a Spy were very, very favorable (any Level 2 or Level 3 resources Culture card), and I did not need to keep both Primetime TVs.

6) One last point: I am not sure I needed Ecology. It is difficult to say without tallying the numbers, but I felt I have 3-4 Trade left at the end of each round. Researching Ecology opened it up for theft by the other two Culture players (esp. Rome, who I knew laid his eyes on the Statue of Liberty), and was a dangerous move. I only got one turn out of it before both India and Rome got it.

Some other conclusions from this game:

1) India's pressure throughout the game was crippling. Combined with the units lost to powerful Barbarians, it lead to many actions wasted on units. This were further exacerbated by Rome's indifference; despite having the strongest military position for most of the game, Rome's flag almost never left his starting tiles. He could have easily derailed America's and India's well laid plans.

2) America could have attacked China 2 much earlier, kicking me out of the race for victory all the while greatly improving his odds of taking my capital. Instead, he wasted time and a valuable tech choice on a high stacking limit, aiming for a decisive coup de grace which would have been easily thwarted by flag killers.

3) India's huts supply was impressive. He got two huts off trades, and Sailing (combined with a reasonable army and the fact that my third tile was inaccessible to me due to four water squares on top and bottom) allowed him to freely roam the board, setting up a large pile of huts. With his special ability this supply meant he did not need to worry about gathering Incense during the game.

4) I have to admit the game ended with a sour taste on my end due to India's two perfect Great People (8 Culture off Akira, plus Frank Lloyd Wright for the finishing blow). After some thinking, though, it is obvious that this feeling is unjustified. We all had our fair share of luck and misfortune this game. For example, revealing Himeji right after building Chichen Itza allowed America a shot at a military victory (otherwise he did not have any victory conditions set up). And my Culture card draws were spectacular: two flag movers (which allowed me to delay attacks on my cities during City Management, compensating for my small hand size), and four of the Culture event cancellers (one Bread and Circuses, one Jousting Tournament and BOTH Primetime TVs).

Plus, of course, there's the loooong list of mistakes detailed above ;-)

5) This game highlighted two strategies that our playgroup has adopted in recent games. One, Grasslands are amazingly good; Granaries and Libraries are cheap and deliver a powerful bang for their buck (especially after being upgraded). Despite being ignored in our first few games, they are now utilized extensively by all strategies. Next, one-unit army compositions are potent, allowing you to focus your early game resources. The rock-paper-scissors mechanic between Infantry, Artillery and Mounted becomes irrelevant when you have a large hand of Level 4 units of one type.

I feel that I have learned much from this game, both regarding early game planning and mid to late game strategy. As always, thank you for reading!
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Jan Siwanowicz
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This game was incredible. We saw 10 wonders built, 17 great people recruited. Three players were in stage III of the culture track, with the other having Cristo Redentor. Needless to say, stage III cards had to be reshuffled several times, to the point where we could stack the deck. Same thing was going on with the cavalry stack. It was even more amazing considering our previous games were not nearly as heavily culture oriented, not because of an underappreciation of that path to victory, but because we simply had other plans. This time everything just fell into place.
 
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Richard Lau
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Thanks for the read!
 
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Ricardo Donoso
Brazil
RIBEIRÃO PRETO
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I wish I lived near you guys!

Here we have 5 people that play, but only 2 of them wins 90%+ of the games.
 
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El-ad David Amir
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rdonoso wrote:
I wish I lived near you guys!

Here we have 5 people that play, but only 2 of them wins 90%+ of the games.

Unfortunately we're now down to just two good players... All of the rest left. I've recruited a good temp though he'll be leaving in a few months as well.
 
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