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Speed Builder Challenge

I came up with the idea a couple days after the Epic 22 reports. I wanted to have another mini-Epic while waiting for the patch and MOO3, but not to just rehash another ancient war game. So I took a look at the list of game options available in PTW, wondering if we could try out a Regicide or Princess game as an Epic.

When I saw the Accelerated Production option, though, it all came to me. Use that option, make war impossible, and the result will be the fastest builder game ever. I couldn't think of a better title, but in the gameplay it turned out to be really quite accurate, as those who've played it now know. :)

I went through many attempts at how exactly to set up a warless game. I had initially wanted all the civs to be on the same landmass, to leave in play the land-grab element of the game.

To set this up, I tried disabling all military units. That didn't work, because how are the AIs going to explore and contact each other? The player could do it with a worker, but the AI wouldn't know to do that. The game actually crashed when I tried this - presumably the AI wanted to build a military unit but couldn't.

So then I tried letting all the civs build scouts. The AI knows how to use those, right? Yes, but it still can't cope with having no military. I playtested this version of the game until I had Writing and the ability to found embassies. The first sign that something was wrong was that India didn't expand beyond one city, while myself and the other AIs had gotten up to four or five. The second sign was when I investigated Delhi and saw about forty scouts just sitting there - um, nice "military".

I also tried making warriors 0-1-1, so they'd have some defense value for the AI to count as military strength, but be unable to attack. That didn't work either.

Back to the drawing board; the editor. Hey, what's this "Immobile" flag in the unit options? What if I enable warriors and give them that flag? Well, that worked! Warriors could be built, could function as military police, but couldn't move. Excellent, and of course scouts could still be used to make contact.

Or, maybe not. I playtested again up to Writing, and once again saw about twenty warriors sitting there in an AI capital. I guess the AI builds military in some cities to distribute to other cities, and gets confused when it can't do that. It can't send out an escort with a settler, either, which will probably confuse the poor thing even more.

No permutation of options worked to give a playable game. So all I could do was to start each civ on a separate land mass and keep them separated. This might actually make for a better game, since now players couldn't get hopelessly left behind by badly executing the land-grab phase.

My initial thought on how to do that was to make every shore square on every island a mountain, so that it would be impossible to build coastal cities, impossible to build boats, and impossible to leave your starting island. Well, here's what stopped me from doing that. I could leave islands separated by a one-square gap, so units could see each other. But that would require the AI to figure out to have a unit there, and would also mean the player would have to trade for contact with the AI on the island that wasn't adjacent to his. You could also bombard from one continent to another this way. All adds up to not a good idea.

Finally, I hit on the solution used in the game: remove transportation capability from the boats, and leave the islands separated. I ran the map generator about a dozen times until it produced a map that I could separate into four roughly equal islands. I started yet another playtest, and bingo! The AI could actually cope with this situation: could build enough military at home to satisfy itself, could use boats to explore and make contact, but couldn't actually attack the player.

That playtest also tipped me off to another problem: the AI would build to defend itself against barbarians, even if there weren't any. The player could beeline instantly to Map Making (starting with Alphabet, even) and become the contacts broker long before the AIs got to make contact. That's why I set the barbarians to Raging for the game: to slow the player's city expansion and make him have to take at least a detour to Bronze Working before beelining Map Making. It'd slow the AIs some too, but their free starting units would make it less of a problem for them.

So now I put a couple hours of work into hand-editing the map, equalizing the terrain, making it look pretty (the rivers were quite a pain until I figured out how they work in the editor - you have to click on the edge of the tile along which you want the river to be) and setting up all the resources for each civ. Then I started a playtest for real.

That playtest, though, fizzled out in the Industrial Age. I got to about six techs ahead even before building Theory of Evolution. So I went back to the editor yet again. I cut down the player's landmass by one city's worth of land, and gave quite a bit more to the AIs. Their city spacing was absolutely horrendous, leaving ridiculous amounts of land unused in the center of their islands. Finally, I sprinkled in several more food bonuses for the AIs, since in that game they lagged far behind in improving their terrain, probably due to not building enough workers.

I also now made the changes of reducing the minimum research time to 3 turns, and adding the 6/city free unit support to the AIs; an average city investigation showed 4-6 units sitting there.

Finally, I had a game worthy of calling an Epic. And now I started my final playtest, which would also be my shadow of this game. (I'm not going to spend all that effort setting this up and then not play the darn game. :) )

Index | The Shadow

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Realms Beyond Civilization Epics: One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Seven | Nine
Epics: Ten | Twelve | Fourteen | Fifteen | Sixteen | Seventeen | Eighteen | Nineteen
Epics: Twenty-Two | Twenty-Three | Twenty-Four
Other Reports: Solo Deity | My Succession Game
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