This is my story of Epic 29 from Realms Beyond Civilization. The scenario setup is there, and repeated here. If you aren't interested in reading this information again, you can skip to the interesting stuff.
Opening Date: Monday, June 2
Duration: Three Weeks
Map Generation: Edited
World Size: Small
Map: Continents, 20% land
Climate: Arid, Warm
Opponents: Ottomans, Egypt, Rome, England, France
Scenario Concept: Five-City Challenge, building all five cities as well as you can. All of the Five Pillars of your Arabian civilization are equally important. None must fall behind the others. The main scoring factor is the cultural value of the LOWEST of your five cities.
Variant Rules: Your civilization may never possess more than five cities at the end of a turn. You may temporarily acquire a sixth city (via conquest, flip, propaganda, cession, etc), as long as you get down to five before ending your turn. You may not temporarily acquire a seventh city (and thus cannot build the Forbidden Palace.)
Scoring: The main scoring factor is the cultural value of your fifth- highest cultured city in 1802 AD, or at game end if that comes earlier. (You must have all five cities to receive these points.)
Historically, 1802 AD was the end of the ancient Arabian lines of government, when the Wahhabi sect conquered Mecca, throwing the region into disarray until later reunification under the Saudis. The cultural achievements of your Arabia will be judged at this date. (But instead of being conquered, your Arabia will hopefully go on to space.)
If your game ends before 1802 AD, use the cultural status as of the end date, plus a baseline value of 20/turn for each turn before 1802. Most wins probably won't occur so soon, given 20% land, a dry climate, and the variant restrictions, but this is here to compensate for anyone that does win early. The other victory types are disabled to allow maximum time for culture building before the day of reckoning.
500 points: Victory
100 points: Each of the five slots in the F11 Top Five Cities list occupied by one of your cities at game's end
200 points: Extra bonus for possessing all five Top Cities
100 points: Each of the four Ages in which you commit no dastardly acts
100 points: Extra bonus for playing the entire game Honorably. Note that acquiring a sixth city and then abandoning it would be dastardly. Giving it away to another civilization would not be dishonorable.
Strategy: For a Five-City Challenge, careful management of your limited economy and resources is key. You'll have only one core, with no Forbidden Palace. Even on Monarch difficulty, you'll have to trade well to keep up and acquire the technologies and resources for the spaceship launch. Remember that colonies are unrestricted and can be a powerful tool to acquire extra trading leverage. You'll want to carefully select your city locations, of course, and build a strong ancient culture base in each. How to pursue the scoring options is up to you.
This was the second Epic sponsored by myself, the first being Epic 24. There isn't a whole lot of story as to how the inspiration struck me. I was just trying to think of interesting things to do with a 5CC, so I started thinking of civs that could be associated with a "five" entity, and hit on Arabia with Islam. Current events may have played a part, too.
I didn't draw the entire map this time, but much of the setup was my doing. I wanted the split of four civs on the player's continent and two elsewhere, to give the player ample opportunity for tech brokering. With fewer, you can't really do much brokering, since you have to buy the techs at 2nd-civ monopoly price to resell. And making contact with the other continent of civs later on could give a trailing player the brokering opportunities needed to catch up.
I rolled about a dozen maps on 20% land/continents, but none came out with a landmass large enough to put four civs on and let the player even get enough space for five cities. I did edit and playtest one of them, but rejected it after two neighboring AI civs both beelined their first settlers within the player's first-ring lands.
I actually resorted to generating 30% land/continents maps. On about the fourth one, I saw a very interesting setup around one of the start points, with much of the nearby territory occupied by desert, but some good, fertile sites at second-ring distance. I'd wanted a start in the middle of things, with some desert/floodplains for the Arabia theme, and this map had both in spades.
From this map, I deleted almost all the the offshore islands (islands just aren't very interesting for a 5CC), as well as some large chunks of land from what would be the England-France continent. That reduced the total land content to about 20%. I then used the editor function to redistribute natural resources, so those would be set up as if the game had generated the map. I picked opponents that played big parts in real Arabian history and assigned them to appropriate start locations. (Babylon, Persia, and Greece weren't included because historically, those civs came earlier and weren't really rivals with Arabia; and also because I wanted to keep the number of scientific civs down to slow the tech pace a bit.)
I tweaked the map further, of course. The plains squares at the start were originally flood-plains, but I changed them to give a balanced setup rather than a deluge of food. I added the lake square on the west side of the gulf to make that site better, sprinkled in some hills in both jungle areas, and added the river on the southeastern peninsula to make that a viable site with flood plains instead of yet more desert. I moved the Egypt and Ottoman start points slightly further away from the player (which would hamstring the Ottos quite a bit more than I realized at the time), and also moved France's capital inland to give the player a better shot at coastal wonders.
I made sure the player had the spaceship resources of rubber, aluminium, and uranium, and moved a couple oils a little closer so the player had a good but not guaranteed shot at them. The northern iron and saltpeter and the jungle coals I left where they were; should be interesting to see which players get which of those. One horse resource was right at the player start, but I removed it so as not to simply hand the player ALL the resources. I took another horse resource from the French continent, then placed the equines at the northern iron location creating a tradeoff between the resource or fresh water, and one on the far southern peninsula to give that site some value.
I tweaked the luxuries only slightly, moving two incense from Egypt's area to the player start location to give the player more with a chance at a monopoly. Finally, I removed a couple goody huts that were really close to the start, to reduce the chance of someone getting a huge advantage with an early free settler, but left a few farther away to reward the player for exploring.
Sirian gave me slightly too much credit for the player's dilemma regarding the city location on the southeast river. All by itself, the game actually generated the gulf coastline, that river flowing parallel to the coast, and the game resource. An hour later when I playtested, I did realize the excruciating tradeoffs presented to the player here, and that clinched my decision to use this map for the Epic.
All in all, I most certainly knew that the player would have to scramble a bit to get five good city locations, or else be stuck with a big hunk of sand.
The Shadow Report