Now that the game's no longer a variant, what do I do now? Well, win the Epic is the next goal; ranking is by fastest finish of each type. Urugharakh had posted "game complete" only a couple days after the Epic opened. If he went for a military victory, he must have finished it pretty quickly, and my having built two wonders instead of 40 Mounted Warriors wouldn't be a winner in that direction. And obviously any cultural victory is out.
That leaves diplomatic or space as the only options where I might be able to top Urugh. And turning in a good time on either of those will require taking the research lead myself. And to take the research lead myself, I need two good cores.
Cavalry are two techs away, and I've got plenty of time to build Mounted Warriors for upgrading (we lack iron but we've got horses.) And America is right next door and doesn't have saltpeter! Or, actually - they do, at their city of Houston on my land!
Here's one thing where the AI goofed on handling the scenario setup: none of them built any harbors for a very long time. Wonders and cathedrals and universities are much more tempting for them. There is still no harbor at all on the America-Babylon-Zulu continent - that means that America as not been able to ship home their saltpeter at Houston.
So get this: I pillage all the roads in my territory adjacent to Houston's roads, so that when somebody in the south does build a harbor, America can't ship their saltpeter through my harbors.
So my minimum-science research on Printing Press completes. I trade it to the Zulu for Metallurgy, and start 100% research on Military Tradition, due in 7 turns. Yes, I started a full age in the hole to my opponents, and I'm going to be the first researcher on at least two Middle Ages techs.
While researching, positioning boats for transport, and building Mounted Warriors for upgrading, Niagara completed its wonder as Smith's for another nice economic boost.
I declared war on America in 430 AD, with two turns to go on Mil Trad research. I captured Houston the next turn with some old archers to snag the saltpeter for myself, then pre-turn-upgraded 13 cavalry and landed them next to New York. And got some very unexpected but welcome help out of nowhere:
I was intentionally not triggering my Golden Age, for reasons that will soon be given. In doing that, I realized one loophole that somehow we'd all missed in the all the discussions on upgrading before. As long as I don't trigger the GA, I can still build all the Mounted Warriors I want to upgrade - and even pre-turn-upgrade them on the same turn they're built! Doing so wouldn't help me a whole lot here, since my plan was to start applying cash to research instead of upgrades, but this could be a devastating trick in a conquest game. Egypt could also do this with War Chariots, and the Aztecs could earlier with upgrading jaguars to swords or MDI.
Speaking of economy, the Zulu paid me full monopoly cash value for Military Tradition, and Babylon also traded me Magnetism for it a few turns later. Effectively a two-for-none deal in the research and trade.
Cavalry against pikemen is always a slaughter. Six turns elapse and America is down to one city.
Except that my plan to turn America into a second core hit a big snag: America crumbled so fast I didn't even have time to get a Great Leader for the new Palace. I did have about eight elite victories but didn't get the payoff.
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