In the spirit of Zed's Deity OCC challenge from last year, I posted an "unofficial Epic" challenge game to the Realms Beyond Civilization forum. This was a shot at something I'd always wanted to do in PTW: accomplishing a 20k cultural win as fast as possible, making heavy use of Great Leaders.
Here's why I picked Japan. Militaristic and religious are pretty obvious traits for this challenge - the first for Great Leaders and the second for shorter anarchy which directly translates to an earlier win. And a militaristic civ can avoid triggering an unwanted early Golden Age, as the only militaristic ancient wonder is the Great Wall which comes at the end of the age. Finally, the later Japanese UU is better than early GA-triggering Aztec Jaguars.
I tried a game on Monarch difficulty, but it proved to be way too easy; an archer rush could take out all the enemy capitals before they even got started. So Emperor it is.
I rolled starts several times, looking for a good combination of coastal access, fresh water, and at least one food bonus. Eventually got this:
I worked out by peeking under the fog that that was another cattle tile visible to the northwest, and so moved one square southeast to get coastal access and both cattle tiles. I didn't move northwest so as to preserve the forest for extra early shields production.
I didn't take a whole lot of pictures of this game; this report is only one page. You'll have to live with my text descriptions. :)
Anyways, my initial build order was two warriors to explore, then temple - settler - Colossus. Kyoto reached +5 food surplus once the two cattle were irrigated, and would ride up to size 12 on that. I've learned from past experience that a 20k city really doesn't need a granary; better to put the 60 shields towards a wonder instead.
I researched Bronze Working at max to start, for the Colossus, then Alphabet at minimum science (kinda temporarily forgetting that I'd picked three commercial civs for opponents that'd have it. )
My settler founded Osaka to the southeast, and here's what things looked like in the year 1830 BC.
Osaka's build order was warrior - worker - barracks. It shared that cattle tile back and forth from Kyoto on occasion to help speed its growth. The chariot under construction is to upgrade to a horseman.
After the Colossus, Kyoto didn't have any wonder to use as a prebuild. So it built a barracks and a couple chariots instead...
I'd contacted all three rival civs early and traded around for techs. I researched Horseback Riding myself, and got it in 1325 BC. England also got it at the same time, but I did get to sell it to France for Mysticism and cash, and swapped a granary prebuild to the Oracle in Kyoto.
With that cash, I started establishing embassies. Here's what Paris looked like:
Hey, France is trying to complete a wonder, and are going to get to that Oracle within 20-25 turns or so after city growth.. That won't do at all, and they've only got three regular spearmen for defense. Also, I observed France and India fighting right around this time, meaning that Gandhi had gassed France's starting units for me...
Osaka went on a crash horseman-building program, including whipping one. With a total of seven horsemen, three or four of which were upgraded from chariots, I declared war on France. My mounted corps sped past intervening targets and went straight for Paris.
No Oracle for Joanie.
As soon as that happened, France gave me all she had for peace: Map Making, Masonry, cash, and her world map.
Kyoto swapped from the Oracle to the Pyramids. I'm aware the Oracle is a better cultural deal, but the Pyramids would give my slowly-expanding cities much more power. Besides, I had a pretty good shot at getting *both* of those wonders. France's capital was mine and the civ crippled, and India was also crippled from their war with France.
That left England, who also presently started a wonder. Let's take a look.
Hmm. Not as powerful as Paris was (all that unmined grassland and less bonus food), but it still required intervention. With help from the Pyramids granary, Osaka was able to put out two more settlers, which all kept building military. My new city of Paris also put out a settler as part of the purge of French citizens from it.
I failed to take any pictures, but I reached and razed London with a stack of horsemen in 610 BC. Here's that stack huddling up on a mountain to heal by where London was:
England had also started on the Great Library in their city of York, and that had to go too. (The other ruins in this picture were London.) I kept it for the Dyes there.
Now it was England's turn to cede me all she had for peace: Mathematics, Philosophy, and Literature.
Unfortunately, these wars were not very conducive to Great Leaders. I was hitting cities in low-percentage attacks with my horsemen, and didn't have any defensive cover for them so the elites would usually defend and lose against counterattacking units. I had only two elite units by this point, which you can see in the picture above.
Kyoto completed the Oracle in 390 BC. Just before that, Joanie had a cerebral malfunction:
Riiight. I wasn't even planning to go after her again yet, but that forces my hand. Very stupidly, just before I demanded she withdraw, she temporarily sold me her extra Iron for a gold/turn payment so I could upgrade my warriors.
Two pathetic French cities had started wonders, and just to be safe I captured both of them. And then my horsemen and swords captured all the rest of the French cities as well except for one. For peace, I got Code of Laws, Currency, and Construction. I set research to max on Republic, due in 16 turns, but Kyoto building its library dropped that by four.
During that war, Kyoto built yet another wonder, which turned into the Great Lighthouse. Yes, I'm aware that the Great Library would be a far better cultural deal, but now I've set my sights squarely on the goal of getting ALL the wonders. The safest way to do that is to get the cheaper 300-shield wonders first, so the AIs have farther to go to try to steal a 400-shield wonder. Also, I hoped to get a Leader to rush the big expensive Library.
I still didn't have any Great Leaders, and England had started their new capital on yet another wonder (the Great Library, although it'd take 60 turns to get there), so I oscillated my war one more time to England.
I did finally get my Great Leader in 90 AD, on about the 16th successful elite victory of the game. So it was right about on schedule. I captured Newcastle (England's wonder-building capital) and made peace. Republic was researched and I revolted in 170 AD. Kyoto's current wonder build completed as the Great Wall in 210 AD - which triggered an excellently timed Golden Age - and Tojo rushed the Great Library next turn.
The Hanging Gardens followed during the Golden Age, giving my city a sweep of all seven ancient wonders. That's exactly what I wanted to do when I set up this game.
Also during that war, I had Paris build the Forbidden Palace. It had surprisingly low corruption for being that far away on a tiny map, because I had few cities so its city rank corruption was low. Paris managed almost 50% uncorrupted shield production after a cash-rushed courthouse, and the Golden Age production helped.
My notes and pictures get scarce from here on, since the game was already decided. No AI city was going to reach 600 shields for a medieval wonder without me easily having time to intervene.
The Medieval Infantry being built in the above picture were to go after India and get myself some more productive cities, which happened. India was eliminated in 560 AD, but with no more Great Leaders. After India, I returned to wipe out France's last city as well.
Once that was done and a bit more infrastructure built, in 650 AD, it was time to go to Always War mode against England to fish for Great Leaders. I got my next Leader in 810 AD, which built an army.
Kyoto built, in order, the Sistine Chapel, Copernicus' Observatory, and the Heroic Epic. The Epic paid off in 900 AD with another leader, which built Bach's; there was a gap of two turns between building the Heroic Epic and finishing research on Music Theory, so Kyoto took that time to rush a marketplace and courthouse (via disbanding an old unit, then short-rushing and swapping.)
With those two widely spaced cores, I would soon get my research pace up to 4-5 turns per tech. I pushed researched to railroads and factories as fast as I could, to get increased shield production for Kyoto to build more medieval wonders.
The random build orders in this picture are all factory prebuilds. I've gotten just about to Industrialization, and Sun Tzu's hasn't been built yet; in this picture Sunny's is just a prebuild for Shakespeare's. (The old AI capital of Paris actually came in the turn sequence before Kyoto, so I set it up to complete something in Paris so I could scroll-ahead to Kyoto and swap to and build the Shake instantly.)
England had long since been knocked down to those three cities on the mainland, and I left them there to trickle units at me for shots at Leaders. Leader Four came in 1220 AD, just after I researched Steam Power, by now easily researching everything in 4 turns. Shakespeare was built in 1255 and the GL rushed Universal Suffrage after that. No more GLs came for quite some time, but after that in quick succession followed a factory and coal plant, then Magellan's, Smith's, Sun Tzu's, Wall Street, Theory of Evolution, and Leonardo's. My glorious city got all nine of the medieval wonders in addition to all seven ancient wonders! A pity it couldn't build Hoover, though.
I actually had to reload and abandon a city a couple times here after accidentally triggering a domination victory by cultural expansions. Hey, it's not an Epic, I can fool around a little bit.
I skipped Military Tradition (Military Academy) and Nationalism/Espionage (Intelligence Agency) in favor of speeding my way to modern wonders and more culture. As Computers finished, with Kyoto building SETI, I decided it was time to go full-out attacking the remaining English cities to cashier the remaining units for whatever shots I could still get at Leaders. About ten elite victories later, one appeared, which rushed the Internet right after SETI - and on the very next elite victory (after one loss) so did another for the United Nations.
And in 1745 AD, the same turn Kyoto completed the Cure for Cancer, it reached 20,000 culture.
1745 AD was actually still a bit later than I expected for this cultural victory. I figured that getting every single wonder (besides Hoover) would result in more than four turns better than my Epic 27 game, where my cultural city missed all the coastal wonders and the Great Wall. Looks like true mastery of 20k really requires a lot of ancient wonders built with GLs, which my Epic 27 game had but this one didn't.
Anyways, it was fun, and well worth it to fill the gap between Epics last month. :)