From the starting position, there was a cattle tile visible. However, there's no fresh water visible, and remembering England's plight in Epic 22, I wondered if there might not be any for a while. Plains-cattle isn't improvable in Despotism without fresh water.
Moving the worker to the bonus grassland didn't reveal any new map info, so I didn't worry about the cattle, and founded on the starting square. That'd only cost me one shield as compared to moving next to the cattle; the worker will have the bonus grassland mined in 3 turns, making it produce the same as the cattle tile, and having the city founded a turn sooner makes up two shields of the difference and of course gets a turn's worth of food and commerce. Yes, I always micro-analyze starts like this.
I'm also rewarded for that decision by a tundra-game square. Doesn't help in Despotism, but it will in the long run.
Anyways, max research on Pottery as always, and then on Alphabet. The worker improves the bonus grasslands, of course, and builds a road on the cattle square. I didn't record how many warriors I built before the granary, but I think it was two to explore and one for police. Going up to the four-free-unit threshold (including the worker) is a decent guideline to follow.
The exploring warriors figured out the game's twist pretty quickly:
Looks like no irrigation will be available until Electricity. There did turn out to be a couple of lake tiles, but they're locked in tundra.
In 2800 BC, we finally contact someone, and it is Egypt. No trades to be made, though.
In 2630 BC, I get my next city founded:
This city has one purpose in life: to build the Pyramids. That's why the city's at that location: to use the two bonus grasslands between it and Persepolis. Those two squares, plus two mined wheats, plus two mined plains, will park the city neatly at size 6 with no food surplus but 13 shields per turn. The Pyramids will be absolutely critical on this low-food map.
I choose to give the bonus grasslands to Pasargadae also because Persepolis's settler-building is going to be limited by food; it can get along without those bonus-shield tiles. Also, I don't need to allocate worker labor to Pasargadae until the city is about to reach size 3.
The RNG handed me a bit of bad luck; my warriors lose two of the first three battles with barbarians. Persepolis has plenty of time to build replacements between settlers, though. When one warrior finally disperses a camp in the south, I use the cash from that to top off my 5 remaining turns on Alphabet from Egypt, and start a minimum science run on Writing while saving up to buy Warrior Code.
I also contact the Greeks, and uh oh, Athens is building the Pyramids. But it's only at size 2 according to F11. It's all going to depend on how good terrain Athens has...
Susa founded 1750 BC, next to the only tile within a thousand miles that's got potential for better than 2 food in despotism (and thus growth in better than 5 with a granary.
I suck it up and pay 64 gold to Greece for Warrior Code (with only two civ contacts and without any brokering); I need some archers pretty badly to hold off the barbarians. Greece has Iron Working and Egypt has Writing, but I can't afford either to broker.
In 1300 BC, Pasargadae has reached size 5, and has run out of two-food tiles to work. I merge in my starting worker to take it to size 6 (growth would take 20 turns) and break-even food. The Pyramids will arrive in 17 turns, building 11 shields/turn; that's the best I can do. No idea how Athens is doing, but it's got a lot of flood plains which have jumped it up to size 6 already.
Greece establishes embassy with me, which is disappointing because now I can't do it with Greece to get the free city investigation of Athens. :P
My fourth city didn't get founded until 1175 BC, and here's why:
It's waaay over there. That settler and spearman simply set out to find somewhere - ANYWHERE - fertile in which to build, and this was the first decent site they found. Importantly, this city also grabs a river, which will give me a chance to build the Hoover Dam way on down the road. Now I just have to hope I can secure this city from flipping. Also, I intend for it to be my Forbidden Palace, although it will first have to build a library. It is a looong way away, but with fresh water, a game tile, and the Pyramids effect coming, it should grow quickly enough to put out a decent number of shields.
India completes the Oracle in 975 BC; that's okay with me. Pasargadae is up over 300 shields, so cascade from the Oracle to the Pyramids is no danger. Greece, though, cascades to the Great Library, meaning I have no shot at that.
Also in 975 BC, my minimum run on Writing finishes (man, that took a long time), and ALL FOUR of the techs immediately beyond are available. Yech; I was hoping for some brokering.
I haven't been able to make contact with anyone beyond Egypt or Greece. I only really sent out one exploring warrior in that direction, and he ended up making a wrong turn instead of going through Greece. He's now stuck here:
Aargh. He can't contact England from that position until that border expands TWICE, or a galley sails by. Gonna have to do some trading...
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