So here's 1 AD. Notice that major chunk of money streaming in, 84/turn. Man, I never understand how gold works in this game. Sometimes I get dozens of extra, sometimes I can't climb above break-even. I know it's rivers and resource sales, but I can never gauge ahead of time whether that's going to be 8 or 80 income. Anyway, I spent it on Amphitheaters, then the Garden in the capital, the missing Aqueduct in Breda, and more city-states.
About the only thing that went wrong was missing Chichen Itza, disappointing but understandable since I went to two other medieval techs before it. I also missed Stonehenge, Great Library, and Hanging Gardens but those were all expendable. I did get the Pyramids, Petra, Oracle, Great Mosque, Colossus, Hagia Sophia, Machu Picchu, Terracotta Army, and everything relevant from then onwards.
And I must show off Amsterdam. Thanks to the Polders and Petra, every single tile it's working is at least 5 hard yield. And that is SIXTY SEVEN SURPLUS FOOD!
It's beginning another key wonder, Alhambra. I had completely overlooked this wonder in my first G&K culture game, and belatedly saw it in the France game, but getting it on time here. (Who designed this thing and wrote the description like that? Promotion yadda yadda castle military stuff... oh by the way also +20% culture?!)
Well, it was obvious that Germany was up to something no good. I started upgrading to composite bows. Then Germany declared on Ragusa instead of me, although that wasn't good either, I wanted to keep my maritime ally. First time I've ever seen this work, but I gifted Ragusa two units which actually turned the tide against the conqueror!
I had presently gotten all the basic religious needs covered: all four cathedrals and the Great Mosque. So now it was time to start expanding to foreign lands to start ramping up World Church culture. Besides the usual missionaries, I also embarked on my previously established tactic of smothering newborn religions with Great Prophets. Inland Sea geography encouraged two Prophets, one in each direction, which I did by spawning the 500-faith Prophet normally then the Hagia Sophia for the next. (You should always wait on the Hagia Sophia until it will produce the last prophet you intend on producing, and that will always be either the 500 or 800 faith level.)
AIs get mad at Prophet squelching, but on the other hand, they love you bigtime when you spread and share a religion to someone who has none. This paid off plenty after Education arrived on turn 124. I had five friendships and parleyed all five into research agreements! Wow, that's another benefit of wide religion which means fast religion. Spread it to everybody, and even though some will try to push back, several civs will never get their own and will stay friendly with you. It's also a reason to favor a bigger map, for more religionless AIs.
So my tech and production speed was just right. The cities slid smoothly from libraries to universities to opera houses. I wasn't falling several buildings behind, like when Napoleon built opera houses fifty turns after Acoustics. This worked because we weren't wasting time on colosseums, circuses, stone works. Definitely not shrines and temples. Those SUCK without Piety and are pretty lousy even with it. They don't produce enough faith, or rather other faith sources are too big. When you can get 16 faith from a city-state or 8 from a natural wonder or dozens with Desert Folklore, spending 140 or even 70 hammers for 3 or 5 faith is pretty terrible. I learned this the hard way in my France and Korea science games: DO NOT take shrine/temple dependent beliefs if not going Piety.
Another overview at 800 AD, which oddly keeps cropping up in my culture games as a time where I take a look.
Eerily close to the Napoleon game, almost identical beakers, gold, population, and research. The sum of crops and MFG is also the same, with the Polders obviously skewing more towards food. But look at that gap in culture, this game is producing triple Napoleon and is four policies ahead! Why? Got the culture buildings going quickly - didn't build colosseums and shrines and temples and circuses first.
The 2000 gold in that picture was saving up for Museums of course, and the faith now saving for a Great Artist. I'd pushed out about twelve missionaries total, who converted the world and were presently heading for the last virgin territory opposite the inland sea.
Like that to my northwest, with all the cities Christian and keeping each other that way with interlocking pressure. I'd spread via missionary to approximately each city size 6 and up, letting smaller ones convert on their own.
Christianity was a bit less successful to my east, with Germany and Carthage both breaking out of lockdown. But in general, religion looked like that all the way around the inland sea, now adding up to 50 culture by World Church.
Sweden eventually spread with a prophet too. One of my own prophets had been on a major world tour waiting for an enemy religion to pop up. He set course for Sweden... but then I just couldn't do it. Sweden was a good friend, and his friendship ability gives +10% GPP. It wasn't worth making him mad for the sake of about four culture. AIs get REALLY angry when you wipe out their religion that way, since it creates so many diplomatic incidents. First they get mad at the spreading, then mad again when you either refuse to cease or break the promise by spreading again, then madder when they denounce. A friendship can survive the single first prophet squelch, but not any more than that. The right move is to let religions live and be satisfied with having 90% of the world's cities including all the city-states.
By the end of the game, that's 61 cities with my religion for 86 World Church culture. Let the others have their small handfuls of followers. Desert Folklore reigns supreme.
After Acoustics, the tech path to reach the Industrial age got a bit awkward. Industrialization tech would have been fastest. Scientific Theory after Economics (maxed Polders!) would have been the most productive. But I had to go by way of Architecture and Archaeology for the culture stuff instead. That took long enough that I actually got one surplus policy beyond Representation and Religious Tolerance before unlocking Freedom. I actually had to take Meritocracy now for the happy, which also gave enough to finally trigger the happy Golden Age.
Architecture in large part was to squeak in the Porcelain Tower just before the first wave of six RAs matured. These RAs went for only about 800 beakers each; it's actually not quite a sure thing that they were worthwhile. Anyway, the Industrial Age meant Freedom as always.
Economics then arrived, ratcheting up those Polders to full blast, 5-1-4 including the river and golden age. I hadn't been giving them much credit, figuring as just a bit stronger than a farm with this boost coming too late to really help, but that wasn't true, 10 hammers and 20 gold for a city are massive even this late.
The longer term plan was to reach Ecology for Sydney Opera House before the end of the game. Question: Do we run scientist specialists? I said yes for the run up to the industrial age, then no for a short time while building museums, then yes again after the Civil Society food cut. Radio was the next goal, with a short detour to Industrialization for Big Ben, with which I bought all five broadcast towers immediately. Public Schools went up too after museums. Many of these techs were completed by the second wave of five Research Agreements maturing between turns 180 and 190.
Then Plastics on turn 198. I did buy all the research labs thanks to those Polders, which were producing enormous amounts of cash as that picture shows; they accounted for 20 extra gold per city times market and bank makes 150 gpt in all. Each lab was worth 50 beakers including the scientist slot, totally worthwhile. I did not understand this in the Korea science game, that the labs make for such a drastic jump in beaker productivity, and that's why I so overshot the end of the tech tree with bulbs there. Research labs are important not just for their own beakers, but also because those beakers get reflected and multiplied by scientist bulbs too, as we'll see in a moment.
The culture late game was coming together as usual but quite nicely too. I perfectly timed Taj Mahal on the same turn that Freedom completed. And I finished harvesting one Great Artist out of each city just before the Louvre escalated the GPP cost. I'm very sure that was correct. Great Artists are an overlooked factor in deciding how wide to build a cultural civ. Any city capable of producing a GA before the Louvre will ultimately speed the cultural victory. Once the Louvre hits, any further artists come too late to matter towards the finish date. I blasted through those last few policies seriously fast, never more than 5 turns apart, usually 4. Amsterdam swelled to thirteen landmarks in all, three from faith purchases.
And the endgame converged masterfully. I had farsightedly started running max scientists and engineers in Amsterdam quite early in the industrial age, and built the National Epic. (NE is frequently never worth building, it's very weak at twice or more the cost of a Garden with the same effect.) I even built Himeji Castle needing just a sliver more GE points to make this work. Fifty turns later, Amsterdam perfectly spawned a scientist and engineer together. Just after the research labs had filled the eight turn sliding window for bulbing, and just as my natural culture claimed the 29th policy. I still had the Porcelain Tower scientist on hand too. Here we go, here's how to do a culture endgame with two scientists and two engineers.
T212: At end of turn, spawn scientist and engineer.
T213: Bulb Flight and Electronics with the overflow enough to fill Atomic Theory. Claim the 29th policy, the Liberty finisher for a second Great Engineer. At end of turn, finish Atomic Theory and Oxford. Start the overflow stepladder in Amsterdam.
T214: Claim Ecology from Oxford. Double rush Sydney Opera House with BOTH Engineers to finish it instantly. Buy Solar Plant in Amsterdam.
T215: Claim 30th policy from Sydney Opera House (saving 3 turns over earning it normally) and start Utopia with two turns of overflow banked.
That was _masterful_. Aimed from fifty turns away, I synched research to Ecology and culture to the 29th policy and two streams of GPP all within two turns. It's like those NASA space missions where they launch a spaceship at a planet a billion miles away and hit an orbital target a few miles wide, where the analogy is something like threading a needle in New York by remote control from San Francisco.
Utopia Project took six turns after the overflow stepladder, and the last bit of perfect timing was Utopia finishing just as that last Golden Age ran out.
(Well, it wasn't perfectly perfect. I didn't start the overflow stepladder soon enough, it only had two steps, could have saved another three turns with another twelve of prebuilding, although that would have required some fancy gymnastics around building Cristo Redentor in another city instead to free up Amsterdam.)
Cultural Victory on turn 221 1555 AD. Eleven turns faster than my vanilla Greece game.
So Ecology and the Sydney Opera House are definitely worth aiming for. Five cities can indeed reach it, saving 4-5 turns on the last policy plus one on building Utopia thanks to the solar plant. But everything needs to go perfectly to reach Ecology. I had 11 Research Agreements total, with anomalously many friendships, you can't count on that. I needed the Polders for gold to buy Public Schools and Research Labs. I needed the late spawns of both the great scientist and engineer. And all of that just barely scraped into Ecology in time.
And I've got the other ingredients figured out too. Nothing beats a desert map for Desert Folklore, parleying into nearly 100 culture from World Church for free with no other actual investment. And the Dutch unique ability synergizes massively with a desert map, probably making them the best civ in the game for culture.
In fact, Desert Folklore just ruins the religious game. It's so ungodly strong compared to everything else; there's no other belief or even any other method to get 50+ faith for free. That puts a very unfun tight constraint on viable maps: you must have desert, nothing else comes close. The rewards for a widely spread founder belief (nearly 100 culture or gold) are massive enough that you must play in that direction. And to really abuse religion, you want to be spreading missionaries fast fast fast, before any other religions get started and before the missionary cost escalates with era. But nail these requirements and you're rewarded with an immensely strong payout that can't be achieved any other way. Very one-dimensional, and fun to execute once or twice, but man does the religion system taste sour to me now.
Anyway, gotta say I'm satisfied with this one. 221 turns to culture, when sub-300 is considered good among the CFC crowd.
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