I'm not going to try to write this report in-character or anything. There's jokes to be made about Isabella being the chick from Species or something, but there's way better comedians and storytellers around here than me.
Anyway, here we go. As is common for a playtest, I'm settling on the starting square.
Here is a look at our mind-bending city screen. As we see, hammers fill up the food box, commerce fills up the production box, and food creates beakers. The game defaulted to work the flood plain, but actually the fish gets to Meditation in the same number of turns while putting one more commerce towards the worker. If we were not doing worker first, the right tile would be the 3-hammer hill to get our growth started. (wait, what?)
Also note that we are actually taking advantage of the fact that a size-1 city cannot starve. The city is only producing one hammer, while the one citizen should be eating two hammers, but we get away with that little trick here. Despite working the fish for now, I'm not doing work boat first because I don't think we want to work the fish after the worker. The fish produces no hammers, so our city would stagnate at size 1 without growing.
Yeah, I'm going to Meditation. The tech for the fastest start would be Mining. Usually, whichever tech you need to improve your food is the right one to start with, one of Agriculture or Fishing or Animal Husbandry. Here, it is Mining that starts growth, then Bronze Working to chop forests into food. But as I often do when playtesting, I'm intentionally taking a slightly suboptimal path at first to regress my skill slightly towards the mean. Also, it's not often that we get a chance to easily found an early religion, and just for the heck of it I'll take the chance to play with it here.
Here's a shot of my progress after 25 turns. The worker has arrived and finished mining that hill tile, while I researched Bronze Working. It might have been better to research Hunting and camp the furs tile first - the commerce from it could help build a second worker much more quickly. In fact, the furs is the only tile that produces a total of 6 units towards a worker/settler (2 hammers, 4 commerce.) Well, part of this scenario is thinking on the fly and I'm sure many players will misfire. And yeah, I'm definitely dumb and should have mined the sheep, it's strictly superior to a blank plains hill.
Madrid's build order was worker - warrior - warrior (reached size 4 with a forest chop) - worker - work boat - warrior (for escort) - triple whip a settler at size 6.
Here's a shot of Madrid on turn 50, just before the triple whip. It doesn't look all that unusual, actually - I think the tiles it's working are exactly the same as a non-alien race would do. The one arguable call is working the fish over the plains hill mine; I am doing that to make sure to finish Priesthood research (remember the food is beakers) in 3 turns to start the Oracle with overflow from the settler whip.
Madrid perhaps should have done its granary first to regrow, but I was fearful of missing the Oracle. Instead, Madrid got its population back up with chopped forests.
And here is city two. I think this location is right for a number of factors. First, it's on the river for instant connection with Madrid (remember here a trade route is +1 production) and hopefully the free religion spread. Second, it's close enough to work one of Madrid's mined hills from turn one for quick growth. It grabs the horses for more growth later (do not ask what our species eating minerals means for the case of a horse tile.) And it's on the river for the levee which will do some pretty silly things. It misses the gold, but that's okay, the gold fits best with another city down on the ivory.
Barcelona also got a couple forest chops to jumpstart its population. I really like that mechanic, normally new cities take a long time to bootstrap growth. Reminds me of merging workers in Civ 3.
City three. This is a strong site - incense produces 6 production once we get to Calendar! And it has two plains hills and a choppable forest to bootstrap population, and is on a river.
In a normal game, your workhorse tile is grassland. Improve it with a farm or cottage, and it supports or exceeds itself in food while delivering additional productivity. Fire and forget. But what is the equivalent for the Isabaliens? Hills. Plains hills are excellent, equivalent to a post Biology farm; grass hills are equal to a farmed river grassland, and even usually-useless desert hills are a regular grassland farm.
This has nothing to do with the mod, but it was highly amusing: my exploring warrior got stuck on that hill when Carthage dropped in that city behind him. He would get kicked out when Carthage city hit 100 culture so I left him there.
Then a bit later he got stuck AGAIN, though by then Open Borders weren't far away.
I built the Oracle to Metal Casting. Forges should do great things to our food supply, and the Colossus should be interesting.
After that, Alphabet came in, revealing me to be essentially ahead in techs. Nobody else had even Writing, the only techs around are cheapos like Archery and Masonry and Sailing. And nobody had Priesthood, could have sandbagged the Oracle to something bigger, but Metal Casting was fine.
Anyway, I've also been keeping an eye on the AIs, just to make sure nothing in the mod broke them. They are displaying a wild divergence of competency. Carthage and Germany have each exploded out to six cities already and are doing fine. England, oddly, has not even expanded beyond the capital! She chased directly to Monotheism with her first few techs (despite already getting Hinduism), skipping even basic worker techs for quite some time. I was somewhat worried that something broke in the mod, and investigated the AI a couple times, by way of a worldbuildered great spy then reloading. But Elizabeth was just doing dumb things - she blew hammers on sending three Hindu missionaries to all three of my cities, and also sent one Jewish missionary (what is that going to do?!)
And I still have little idea where the difficulty of this game really lies. Still haven't figured out whether these tile mechanics are advantageous or not. For a new city, they certainly are, with 4-hammer plains hills mines, and the ability to chop forests into population. But it's hard to collect sizable commerce to build things. And later in the game I have to expect research to slow down sometime; cottages do not make economy, and farming seems dumb, +1 food is functionally a normal cottage that never grows.
Difficulty won't come from the AIs at least. Prince AIs are weak, and England is certainly rushable with swords. If the game turns out on the easy side, I'm okay with that. I have a strong lead, but I have the advantage of thinking about these tile mechanics far ahead of time, and we do want the game to be playable even for players that don't grok the tile mechanics right away. Finally, easy is fine when coming between the very difficult Epic 26 and another likely difficult variant from Arathorn.
Perhaps it's easy because I went a bit overboard in adding hills to the terrain. A size 6 city is not supposed to have 11 food surplus. The forge is accounting for 4 of that.
I whipped forges in both Madrid and Barcelona, chopping a forest in each to regrow the population. The big question now is whether to try for the Pyramids. Of my four neighbors, two still lack Masonry. And I know England is not building it: even aside from diagnostic spying, I can tell by the Sabotage Production espionage number that nothing big is going on there.
My exploring warrior found the German capital, thanks to using the Great Wall circumference as a guide. Call it the Great Wall Positioning System. I checked the Sabotage number... whoa, that comes to 418 hammers, that can only be the Pyramids, and it was. Hey, if the German is going to steal the Pyramids that soon, it won't be so easy after all to jump into a specialist economy.
So if I'm not building the big wonder, the next plan is to go smash England with swords. It's actually not that often that I've done a good sword rush; more often I'm interested in peacefully expanding and then conquering with superior tech later. But this is a good chance; England will not get to longbows before I can make that happen, and the capital is not on a hill. Plus this is revenge for confusing me in playtesting the mod and making me think something was wrong.
By the way, I should mention that I've been debugging the mod as I go. While whipping presently, I realized that the whips were getting the hammer modifier from having a Forge. That's not my intent since the forge already applies to the food box (the behavior isn't clearly right or wrong, it's a judgment call), so now I found and fixed that in the mod code, and reloaded from a few turns back to whip at the correct yield.
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