I also (before accepting that) made some more inquiries at the diplomacy table, and found out that both Alexander and Catherine now considered the 4-man team their worst enemy. So I had a chance to buddy up with the 3-man team a bit, and hopefully worry less about war from that side. A resource trade with Victoria (+3 from civics) warmed her to the idea of Open Borders, and then I started resource trades with the other two as well.
So during that peace treaty, I researched up to Railroad. And now it was time to try again with the hedonism. I'd count on Machine Guns for defense. Infantry can't crack those -- that takes Marines, four techs later -- and they can play zone defense with a military railnet established. So I shut off research once again, going to 80% on the culture slider, and revolting to Hereditary Rule (again for the civics boost with my teammates) and Pacifism.
Mecca and Medina finished up the last of their four cathedrals, then filled in their courthouses so that Najran qualified for the Forbidden Palace, then parked on building culture. Medina was still running five artists.
And I picked up my second flip! Catherine had a MASSIVE anti-flip garrison in there, at least 10 units, but it saw the beauty of Najran's culture anyway.
BTW, here's one element I don't like about the culture flipping system of Civ 4. It's too dependent on the precise city locations, because it depends on the culture only in the city tile itself. If Novgorod had been one tile north or west, Najran's culture wouldn't have reached it at all, because of the shape of the 5000-culture border. But in that location, the flip chance to me was nearly inevitable. A single tile shouldn't make 100% difference in a flip chance. A better mechanism would be to compare the civs' influences in the entire fat cross, not just the city tile itself. Civ 3 actually had that right to some extent.
Anyway, Mecca and Medina kept producing Great People, but in a very unhelpful configuration.
What am I supposed to do with three Great Scientists? They would lightbulb Scientific Method, which is useless to me. They can't start a Golden Age, since I can't spend a Great Artist on that. I'm not researching, so an academy or settling are both useless. They would just sit there, hoping for somebody to buddy up with to start a Golden Age, but that never happened.
And both the AI teams left me alone for the rest of the game. Najran went Legendary in 1844 AD. And finally, for the last few turns once we knew Medina wouldn't generate another GP before game end, we revolted to Free Religion just for the lower upkeep (lower than Pacifism since I'd built about two dozen machine guns.)
Mecca was my cultural laggard, having had no settled Great Artists. Most of its production came from commerce in the late game, but even so it was still 7000 behind my other cities. Two Great Works now brought it up to the ranks of cultural legend.
Medina had gotten lots of wonders, and had run tons of artist specialists all game. That kept it running well on culture despite the comparatively low production from the slider in the endgame.
Najran had only the one wonder, but made up for that by receiving four settled Great Artists early on, plus the Hermitage. Also, it got the cathedrals done sooner as it wasn't spending time on wonders. It actually overshot by 5000 culture, but that's not so bad. In Epic Seven, my capital overshot by 9000.
I left the world map in that shot so you can see how much I had (not) explored. I never had the cash to spare to buy anyone's map. Usually I get maps for cheap techs, but that wasn't available here. Didn't need to; we were perfectly happy with our own culture and didn't care about the rest of the world. That was the work of just two caravels, who got most of the way around the world before getting killed in the war.
The AIs gave me a hint of where they were on the tech tree by building the Pentagon and Broadway. But we didn't care. Here's one last overview shot:
Cultural Victory in 1858 AD. I'll be extremely surprised if anybody can launch a spaceship sooner than that, with tech trading turned off. A UN vote could be held sooner, but a diplo victory would be incredibly tough. The 4-civ team would be the opponent, so diplomacy is already a non-starter unless you reduce them to under 40% of the globe population. And you'd somehow have to buddy up to the 3-team along with the on-continent teammates.
I've no idea how that date compares with a potential domination win. I've no idea when the player could get any good technological window to attack. Could the near continent be taken in the axemen era? Possibly, but not without sacrificing lots of land-grab on the starting continent that couldn't be recouped later under the variant rules, and not without tanking the economy pretty fiercely. Since conquest is out as a victory condition, you'd have to be dominating, which means keeping all that land. And the far continent had serious logistical obstacles until Astronomy, which leaves a pretty short window of maybe 150 turns between Astronomy landfall to when I got my cultural win. And that's if you had a good unit with which to do the attacking -- probably cannons and riflemen before machine guns and infantry. Well, we'll see on report day.
How often do you see that sort of drop happen to the human player? Much more often it's the human conquering some border cities from an AI, not the human letting a city get razed.
15935 points. Good game, even if these cultural victories are getting a bit repetitive.