One important mechanic change in BNW is that many wonders require the opener of a certain policy tree to unlock. This gives Civ 5 a needed element of diversity, that you won't always build the same wonders all the time. Civ 4 accomplished this with the map-specific wonder-doubler resources. Civ 5 has lacked these branching paths until now.
I dove deeply into one particular tree in each of my previous games: Aesthetics, Exploration, Commerce. But what I never get to see is how openers across different trees interact with each other. I've seen notes about how the Tradition, Honor, and Patronage openers are all useful even if you don't go deeper into those trees, but I never seem to play that way. So let's try it.
I'm not sure if this is really a variant rule or just a game plan, but the idea is going to be to take all nine policy tree openers and if possible build all nine of those wonders. Of course, if we want to build a ton of wonders, Egypt is the civ to do it with. Monument of the Gods is the desired pantheon, and we'll need and use Stonehenge to get to religion. Then the religion will include Divine Inspiration, +2 faith per wonder. Where do we go from there? I guess a big pile of wonders naturally leads to a tourism victory.
Policies aren't going to be strictly limited to openers, both because you will get more policies than that and because Aristocracy in Tradition fits so perfectly. I could make the rule "must take an opener if available". But that can be exploited by deliberately delaying the classical era until after the 5th policy so it can be forced into Aristocracy. That's silly, so let's just allow Aristocracy right up front. If I get more policies later than available openers, we'll decide what to do with them then.
Map: For once I don't need any particular choice, not any Desert Folklore cooked setup, or islands, or anything else in particular. Just some hills. I picked Highlands for a change just as something I'd never done before and of course it produces hills.
No start-scumming here, got that on the very first map roll. That looks like a beautiful wonder-building capital. A bit tight on food, but it won't be once the Hanging Gardens and Petra come.
Mining first - because we settled on the silver and that's the fastest route to selling it. Then popped Mining from a ruin with 3 turns left, ha oh well.
Freakin really? I got population from a ruin... and there is not a single additional food tile available so it's going to starve. No - the way to avert that is to buy the stone tile!
Build order was my usual scout - scout - monument. Then actually went for a worker, since there arose no opportunity to steal one, and that tile purchase set me back on money for buying a worker. Following that was shrine - granary - Stone Works - archer - Stonehenge - Pyramids. Research order to support that was Mining - Pottery - Masonry (quarries) - Calendar (Stone Works, Stonehenge). I later got a second population ruin to boost to size 5.
In policies, turn 19 brought the Tradition opener, obvious to do that one first since it accelerates into more. The best move for the second policy was actually the Piety opener, since Thebes was just about to build its shrine. Then finally I got a culture ruin, for the Liberty opener on turn 31. Another culture ruin followed for Aristocracy as the fourth policy on turn 43 just as we started Stonehenge.
It took quite a while for any of the AIs to have enough money to be worth selling my silver. I did to Washington when he had 4/turn available, on turn 50. I wasn't sure if that was a good idea to sell at that discount... but I needed to get money moving. I hate having 200-300 gold sit in the treasury unspent when it should be put to use climbing the growth curve. Needed to build that up to enough to get to a bigger item worth buying. Usually the best buy is a worker, but that wasn't the right move here with the Pyramids coming, so gotta get to 500 to cash out a settler.
But then giving that discount to Washington paid off bigtime as the very next turn, he signed Friendship with me! I immediately jumped on selling him my marble for full value - perfect to cash out into the settler! A few turns later Gandhi also signed friendship and bought my second silver at full price too.
And here's that second city. It had to go in this direction, since there was lots of barbarian activity all around and this is where my military units were to guard the settler. It's not a great site, with no new luxury. It's also not great in the food department -- but it will be. First, Thebes sent a food caravan to it. Then, it built the Hanging Gardens!
I also just got the pantheon, Monument to the Gods, +15% production for ancient and classical wonders. And my marble got pillaged -- and as usual, that was a GOOD thing, as it interrupted my sale to America and let me sell it again after repairing.
There's my capital with all the possible wonder construction modifiers stacked up. The build order continued: Stonehenge - Pyramids - caravan - warrior (escort for the second settler which was purchased with more money from Gandhi) - watermill - war chariot for defense because holy crap are there a lot of barbarians around.
T65 fifth policy, and also Mathematics for the classical era - so yes I could have forced myself into a non-opener policy (Aristocracy) by delaying that tech one turn. I took the Honor opener first, then Patronage next on T81 and Aesthetics on T102.
The Honor opener actually proved seriously useful. The bonus against barbarians plays bigger than it looks, because it makes the difference such that one single unit can usually take down a barbarian camp by itself. And having the camps pre-revealed means you can efficiently dispatch units there rather than reacting once you've already lost something to pillaging. The culture is a fun bonus and did accelerate policies by a few turns, but is still overrated, it can never come close to making up for the policy's own cost.
Great Library fell T65, okay can't get them all, knew that one wasn't gonna happen. Statue of Zeus also fell T67. I'd intended to actually take a shot at it just to sweep all the opener wonders, but yeah there's really no point to that one. I also missed the Great Wall, but was never trying for it.
City three came over here. It's placed to get those two luxuries, even out in third ring. A long term project, to be sure. But I think it will prosper with those four food resources.
You can also see my marble about to get pillaged for a second time. I tried to sell it right before that, but nobody had any money. But I did get to briefly swap it for someone's Copper to satisfy a CS quest.
Memphis has started the Hanging Gardens in that shot, and did get it as planned. And in a stroke of total genius and absolutely not at all accident, it even included the free Garden in a city that couldn't otherwise build it.
Holy CRAP was there a lot of barbarian activity. Way more than I typically see on Inland Sea even though you'd think Highland should be similar. I lost all three of my exploring units as you can see by the dead-ends on the minimap. I hadn't even contacted three civs yet and wouldn't be able to get to them all for quite a while.
I aimed for an unusual solution to that: Terracotta Army! Usually this wonder seems hardly worth it - you can't even get 250 hammers worth of units on the board to copy. But by happenstance, I had built a number of distinct unit types - warrior, scout, archer, chariot archer, spearman. And since Terracotta Army would cost only like 150 base hammers with all the wonder bonuses, it would indeed pay off well. But I missed the wonder by 5 turns. I was left with a rather out-of-place catapult that I'd built just to copy, but it did go on to be helpful against barbarian camps and eventually I did turn the tide there.
Religion came on turn 91 600 BC. Not too bad on speed, I was third to it in this game. But I got what I wanted in Divine Inspiration (+2 faith per wonder). I didn't have much preference on a founder belief, didn't expect the religion to spread particularly wide, just took good old Tithe.
Turn 99 Thebes added Petra, skyrocketing the city's production even more. And right after that, a super early Great Engineer spawned, thanks to the Pyramids + Stonehenge. I did settle him as a manufactory. Yeah, +3 net production over a mine is a 250 turn payback period compared to saving for say a 750H wonder, but actually that payback period is less thanks to all the multipliers, and there is time value in having the payback starting now rather than all in one shot two eras later.
I tried to rip out the Parthenon in 5 turns... but missed it by 2! That one hurt, that's a big one for tourism. Would have had it if I hadn't been tempted by the Construction detour for Terracotta Army, oh well.
And here's a traditional 1 AD overview. First time here I've shown the overall layout, with my Egypt nestled into the southeast corner of the Highlands map. I just got the Oracle, before the medieval era was opened for Commerce or Exploration. I put the free policy into the Aesthetics tree since I would want to complete that eventually for the tourism victory. Thebes is just about to start the National College, after Elephantine's library, then the Theology wonders.
I was tempted for one more city out west, somewhere around the circled area. But I ended up deciding no on it. There wasn't any spot quite good enough, none able to pull in quite enough resources to make it seem worthwhile. Both my previous BNW games went wider than I'd intended, so this time I wanted to stick to my guns on a true tall build. The biggest downside from this is going to be trade route range -- I won't be able to reach most of the farther civilizations for the tourism trade route bonus -- but we'll deal with that later.
Hey, the historians know what's going on here. Although maybe they should be reporting that I'm slumming it down on Emperor difficulty and should move up.
I let faith spawn the 500 prophet in order to push the Hagia Sophia prophet to 800, but this was kind of a mistake. I only wanted to use one prophet for spreading anyway -- remember you only get one prophet spread per target civ before they make you stop or else hate you forever. The second prophet just settled as a holy site, probably not very worthwhile if we weren't going to finish Piety.
T154 second Great Engineer. Settled again because it's more fun that way to see the higher productivity, even though by the numbers probably should have saved him for a 750H Louvre or something.
Another overview at 1000 AD, though really little has changed since 1 AD. One oddity though: somehow a bunch of city-states are missing! A standard size map is supposed to have 16, but even after I finished exploring everything, there were only 13 here! (12 after someone conquered Monaco.) What happened there, map generator?
Anyway, the biggest problem going on is not enough city growth. Compare the overviews - that's only four growths per city in the whole first millennium AD, pathetic.
That's even with the most boring trade route setup imaginable, a food route to each city. What's going on is that it really is that hard to grow cities big without the Tradition finisher. It's not just the +15% or the aqueducts. It's having them sooner, the snowball, in that the bigger a city is, the faster it can grow by working more farms. Food trade routes don't seem to be enough to match that. Also, I'm missing any maritime food, there was only one maritime CS on the map and I never got any quests for it.
But the other problem with growing cities was all the specialists. It's those Guild buildings in BNW. Two specialists are a noticeable but sustainable hit on growth. But four specialists including a staffed university are a seriously dragging bunch of freeloaders. Elephantine in particular ended up not working several premium 2F 3H sheep tiles for quite a while, just for lack of laborers.
And my other problem was a major lack of gold. As I showed in the wide games, the best source of income in BNW is actually resource sales. I should have settled that extra western city even for no new luxuries just to get two duplicate ones plus some iron for selling. Even with Tithe coming near 40 gold/turn, I was still barely at break-even. I went a long time (40-50 turns) without spending anything at all, then found that enough scraps had piled up to buy Thebes' workshop, a mild help towards its backlog of wonders.
And I only had that much gold thanks to Tithe working fairly well. It's much harder in BNW to take over AI civs with your own religion. They're much better at producing prophets faster and using them to undo your missionaries. You have to select targets that didn't found their own religions, that's the only way that evangelism will stick. But I had two such targets easily accessible here in France and Japan, and importantly, overlapping with each other for pressure. Also note by the city names that France was conquering Korea, a good if indirect way to decimate a rival religion.
Sweden (dark blue) in the far west was the other civ that didn't get their own religion. I invested in the long-term plan of hiking missionaries all the way across the map to them, and forty turns later it paid off. Important not for diplomatic or Tithe reasons (although they helped), but for the +40% tourism bonus for shared religion, as Sweden was the best culture producer and the longest pole to the tourism victory.
I'd also taken Missionary Zeal (+25% missionary strength) as the enhancer belief, just for a change. I did have a lot of missionaries, which were also Great Mosque buffed. They worked decently well, the extra strength made a noticeable difference on being able to convert cities that already had a couple heathen followers of some sort. It's still probably not better than the passive pressure beliefs, since those continue to work into endgame while you stop buying missionaries eventually, but was a fresh change here.
In the wonder department, I missed Terracotta Army, Parthenon, Chichen Itza, Angkor Wat, and Notre Dame, after being late to those areas of the tech tree. Also missed Himeji Castle but never tried. Got pretty much everything else: Oracle, Great Mosque, Borobudur, Hagia Sophia, Machu Picchu, Alhambra just for the culture, Sistine Chapel, Forbidden Palace, Leaning Tower, Globe Theatre, Porcelain Tower, Taj Mahal, Louvre, Uffizi, Big Ben, Eiffel Tower, Broadway. I had a clear tech lead by the renaissance era and extended that to about 15 turns worth by the industrial era.
Okay, I also wouldn't get the Colossus, haha. Uh yeah, Buenos Aires, about that... Well I guess it would be pretty dazzling indeed if someone managed to build that on this map!
World Congress: I wasn't sure between several possible choices in World's Fair or Culture Heritage Sites or Arts Funding. But all the civs wanted the latter so I went with that. Then I picked Culture Heritage Sites on the second round, just as a change from the usual World's Fair.
Policies actually came somewhat slower than I expected. They were coming at 15-20 turn intervals, but a tall city build going cultural victory was always supposed to be able to hit them in 10-12 turns each. I guess missing Representation and the "+33% culture if wonder" policy (formerly in Piety, now Aesthetics) do matter as compared to old-style culture games.
Anyway, my sequence was: T123 Commerce opener. T140 Exploration opener (actually not blank on a land map, we want it to enable Louvre.) T158 Rationalism opener, completing my goal of all the openers as planned from the initial setup. Now I could go pretty much wherever. So we completed Aesthetics, still necessary for a timely cultural victory. Flourishing of the Arts (+33% culture with wonder) made a significant difference and speeded up more policies noticeably. The four remaining Aesthetics policies (one had come from the Oracle) came on T175 through T207.
I then ended up with two more policies to burn before reaching ideologies. Secularism seemed obvious and a significant bump of 60 beakers. The other had nothing particularly attractive to take, went for Humanism since Great Scientists would still help and we might (but never did) get beyond it to Free Thought.
I misplayed slightly on navigating the tech tree to ideologies. I was targeting Radio and Refrigeration, but sidetracked to Industrialization first for the factories to open the ideology. Then I bulbed up to Radio anyway, reaching the modern era and ideology that way, wasting the detour to factories after all. Although we did want and get Big Ben.
Ideologies: Avant Garde and Creative Expression are obvious for a tourism victory. Surprisingly, there isn't much else helpful short of the level 3 Media Culture, and so a tourism victory ends up burning three mediocre ideology picks to get there. New Deal only helps if you have Landmarks and I didn't. I went with Civil Society and Universal Suffrage, the specialist helpers, though they really didn't do a whole lot on a tall build this late in the game. (Four food saved by Civil Society this late adds up to maybe one extra growth before the end of the game.)
T207 Archaeology. No antiquity sites in range of any of my cities, so no Landmarks for culture/tourism, something I also missed in the previous game. There were about ten sites outside my borders nearby so I did build archaeologists to get them. Micromanagement note: the +15% land unit bonus from a Forge applies to Archaeologists, so do build that.
I'm still trying to figure out where to aim on the tech tree for a tourism victory. Best guess is that Radio and Refrigeration are the critical points, for the Broadcast Tower, Eiffel Tower, and Hotel (+50% tourism). It feels like Radar should also be involved for Airports (same as the hotel), but that's another dozen techs farther away, and at least on Emperor difficulty you just win on the hotel tourism before you can get there. So anyway, I bulbed four scientists up to Radio and Refrigeration, reaching the latter on turn 231 and of course immediately bought Thebes' hotel. The bulb yield was 2500 beakers each, not huge but wasn't getting any bigger without building and staffing Public Schools.
One of the scientists came from the Leaning Tower. I really wasn't sure what to take from that wonder, seems like you should take one of the artistic GPs, but it felt like one more great work was a drop in the bucket while a faster bulb to Refrigeration/Radio would make more difference.
In the trade route department, I had simply kept all the routes as internal food routes all game. The island game wanted production routes, but a land map wants food routes, get your production by growing onto mines. And tucked away in my corner, I couldn't even reach much of any rival cities with routes anyway. Now late in the game, I did switch them to production routes to Thebes to help with the endgame wonders.
I was alertly watching the tourism victory screen, and could see Greece would be the longest pole, with high culture production and no ability for me to get shared religion or trade route bonuses there. So I foresightedly started hiking a Great Musician towards Greece at what looked to be about 30 turns from the end.
And discovered that the strength of a Great Musician is locked in when he's born. So that big long trek all the way across the map got me barely three turns of what my tourism production became by the time he got there.
So I toured three more Great Musicians (one from normal production, one faith-bought, one from Broadway) in France to get the splash tourism for Greece. (Too bad France didn't build their cities in a different order. Or else I could have done my Tours in Tours. )
And just before the end, the World Congress council for Cultural Heritage Sites finally convened, bumping me up from 140 to 170 tourism. That shaved off a couple turns...
..and Culture Victory on turn 253 1715 AD. A good 27 turns faster than my opening attempt. Of course much faster is possible with Sacred Sites, and I'll try that soon.