And here's one last overview shot. Athens, Sparta, and Corinth were all military producing cities (Athens with the Heroic Epic outproducing the other two combined by about three-to-one.) Thermo, Delphi, and Pharsalos were all entirely to support the economy; they never even built barracks.
America was the next target, because China was closer to home. The conquest win would come faster overall by sailing the Mali force over to America, while the home cities built a new force that could start on China while the last of America was still getting mopped up.
So I moved into position to invade, with my main stack at Boston, and also single-galleon raiding parties at Atlanta and Chicago (left of Boston), and declared war in 1625 AD.
Washington was the next stop.
Here's a look at my stack now, and there's also two injured grenadiers plus an old Medic II phalanx recuperating on board ship. Washington finally has a defending force with a respectable number of longbowmen, but my grenadiers are all elite and then some, plus I've got plenty of siege backup now.
By the way, I'd like to say thanks to the RNG. I've actually won about forty consecutive 90%+ odds fights with the grenadiers. :D
And while my primary army and navy had moved through Mali to America, my core cities had been putting out a second stack. The first boat of that new division was the one that finished off Spain; it waited and healed while another full ship joined it to get started on China, while a third raiding party took out China's one island outpost.
This surprises me a bit, but it's fine by me, and too late for him now. If he spent his time researching Nationalism, he's nowhere near Gunpowder.
He also got the Liberalism slingshot right before the end, grabbing Economics. I never tried for Liberalism because I never had any reason to research Philosophy, and there was never a tech I wanted to slingshot that was more expensive than Philosophy plus Liberalism. If I'd had Iron available, I would've gone for it to slingshot Steel.
So I razed New York after Washington, and then I split up my stack. I dropped off exactly enough grenadiers to take Philadelphia (one per defending unit; if one miraculously lost, another surviving victor would mop it up the next turn), and immediately started sailing everything else down towards China. Moves like this are how you shave off turns for military victories. Over the course of the game, if you get five small positional advantages like this to save four turns each, that knocks a century off your finish date.
And while that stack was en route, one of my wandering caravels found that Mao had built a new city on the old site of Timbuktu. One of the Navigation galleons peeled off from that stack with two grenadiers to go take care of that problem.
And the grenadiers plowed through Chinese longbows too.
Finally, in 1695 AD, everybody converged on Beijing for the crowning blow. Beijing did have six longbows and assorted junk on defense, but the catapults and grenadiers blew it away.
Conquest Victory in a nice round 1700 AD. Only 13815 game points -- I'd expected a payoff in the 30000 range after getting 38K for the conquest win in Epic Six. Not sure why there's that huge a discrepancy, especially since this game is actually on higher difficulty than that one.
Here's a shot showing exactly where I left off in technology:
The GNP graph tells an interesting story -- or rather, it doesn't tell it. I was apparently in the middle of the pack in GNP all game, yet I was clearly the tech leader, using grenadiers to crush longbows. For most of the game, my breakeven economy was around 60% research, yet I was actually researching at 100% more often than not thanks to conquest and pillaging cash. Also, I slingshotted or lightbulbed all of Civil Service, Metal Casting, Theology, and Printing Press. None of that shows up in the GNP graph, which goes to show that GNP isn't always a precise measure of technology.
But here's the real MVP Stat of the Game.
Besides suicide catapults, I lost a grand total of EIGHT units all game! Five macemen and three grenadiers died against 120 enemy archery units! City Raider 3 macemen slaughter archers, and City Raider 3 grenadiers are just ridiculous against longbows. Heck, City Raider 3 grenadiers would slaughter everything until machine guns or infantry.
But that isn't anything special about grenadiers (except maybe for the loophole of upgrading them from City Raider macemen.) You get that kind of advantage pretty much any time you have military that's a generation ahead of your targets. Axemen against warriors, macemen or muskets against archers, grenadiers or cavalry against longbows, infantry against rifles, tanks against infantry. "Spearman beats tank" may finally be "fixed", but may have gone a bit too far. If it's the human player faced with such a disparity, he can prioritize the appropriate counterunits and promotions to fend off such an invasion. But the AI is helpless. On the other hand, this phenomenon does represent the game more quickly awarding the actual victory once it's more or less inevitable.
I actually never even got Archery myself. I garrisoned my home cities with the bare minimum warriors all game. With absolute total naval superiority from the Astronomy beeline, there was never any danger of invasion. If a single ship someday slipped past, I figured I could defend by whipping a defender.
Fun game, and the archipelago map was certainly different than anything I'd played before. But I definitely don't like No Tech Trading. With that, the AIs could've put up a far better fight in this game. With trading, India and Spain could've had longbowmen much sooner, maybe not by trading for Feudalism itself but at least by trading for whatever other techs they prioritized higher. And that would've slowed me enough to let Mali and Washington get to Gunpowder in time, and the fight would've been tougher from there too.
And I still have no idea what the Sixth Column title is supposed to mean, other than just the number six being our city count restriction...