And just as I finished Iron Working, England completed the Great Lighthouse. So that's what else she was sinking hammers into instead of expanding. And that clinches that my right move is to go conquer London. Madrid and Barcelona had built barracks while researching, and now started building and whipping swords. Barcelona's were mostly whipped; it has very little commerce for production, pretty much just a couple river tiles.
Yeah, getting enough commerce for decent production is pretty difficult here. Your normal best production tile is grassland mines, converting 1 food to 3 hammers. But there's no similar tile at all for our Isabaliens. No tile type produces more than two commerce, except Colossus coast or waiting for a cottage to grow.
On the way to England, my first couple swords captured Hun the barbarian city, defended by only warriors. Hun immediately starved, being unable to handle their new alien systems. At size 3, it could only make 5 hammers from the city center and forest. Interesting ramification.
By 300 BC, I had a stack of five swords, two chariots, and one axe. War!
And when I reached London, its defense was.... one axe, one chariot, and two spearmen? Zero archers? She has had Archery forever. Okay, you are too stupid to live.
A few turns of healing later, and England bit the dust. York also grabs me 5 health worth of resources, very helpful.
Yes, these Earthlings certainly have difficulty adjusting to their new overlords. London can't make nearly enough hammers to avoid starvation. Best thing to do with the population is wait one turn and whip something (the screenshot says Hindu Temple, but then I realized that a 3-whip of the forge was possible thanks to Org Rel.)
So how to fix this economy, essentially without cottages? England's pillage cash and a couple tech sales would carry me to Currency and Calendar, but then it was a slump down to 20% research. Well, my Great Prophet from the Oracle can contribute a great start with the Hindu shrine in London, already at 13 gold. I'm researching Currency out of habit - no the trade route will not fix my economy, but an extra production or two in every city is even better. Markets will help, both the cash and +2 happy. And a bit later, Great Person #2 came as a Scientist and went for an Academy in Madrid.
Speaking of cottages, let's speak about cottages. Of course they generate production in bizarro world here, and they really do feel equivalent to regular mines. An alien cottage always costs "food", since no 2-hammer tile allows a cottage. But they produce 1 production early (2 if riverside), and eventually grow to the equivalent of a grass hill mine (plains cottage) or plains hill mine (grass cottage). It feels right to give each city about 2 or 3 cottages on plains tiles, just as with grass mines in the regular game. That's enough to build things and is about how many can be supported by the excess food supply.
Colossus coast also makes for an interesting tile. 3 production, equal to a regular desert hill mine, and one "commerce". Not great, but serviceable when whipping isn't an option, in the case of wonders or too much anger. Colossus seafood is of course great, 3 production plus 5 or 6 "commerce", just like a silver or gold mine.
At least one type of tile I have no idea what to do with is grasslands and flood plains. Workshopping them later up to 3 or 4 hammers may be a good idea, but for now they seem to be just junk. 2-1-0 from a workshopped flood plain is equal to normal non-lighthouse coast (bad.) A couple flood plains I did cottage (similar to riverside plains hill mines) for cities that were really hurting for production, inland cities without Great Lighthouse benefit.
Yes, the Great Lighthouse is pretty silly here. That is a size 2 city with 18 production. I had a couple coastal cities start knocking out wonders just because they could, getting the Colossus, Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, Mausoleum (this game will be Golden Age heavy, with explosive "food" and lots of specialists to spawn the GPs.) 5 wonders total by the honorable mention checkpoint of 500 AD, with the Apostolic and Parthenon coming just after.
Unfortunately I lost the Temple of Artemis to Germany - that would've been a sweet +8 or so production. And I lost the Hanging Gardens by ONE TURN! At least the refunds speeded me to Theology and the Apostolic Palace.
In the national wonder department, Barcelona decided to become National Epic / National Park - lots of hammers to run specialists, plus six forests, so got the Great Library as well.
My economy just refused to crash. Even though farms for food are undesirable, food itself is plentiful. All those mined hills and coastal squares do produce 1 food each, and across an entire empire that really does add up. 20% research was as low as it dipped, but all the big cities just kind of automatically hired specialists and kept researching just fine. Add some courthouses and I'm back to 40%. Or build Research, translating all that Great Lighthouse commerce back to economy as in a regular game, and the GL has the same indomitable effect as in a regular game.
So in this playtest, I'm still thinking about the game difficulty. Even though I've blown far ahead of the AIs, let's still leave it here on Prince. My Oracle to Metal Casting was a key move, but not every player will think of that. And the Great Lighthouse is also crazy, but that was a fluke of capturing it -- I don't expect it to be built legitimately, Madrid just doesn't have the commerce for early production power.
This scenario is a challenge of thinking as you go, and meant to have this kind of reward for players that accurately assess the mechanics. And the scenario is quite intentionally on a small pangaea-ish map with a strong medieval UU/UB combo. Converting such a lead to an actual domination or conquest victory should be pretty straightforward. (Little known secret: Spain doesn't really have a UB, instead it has two UUs. Besides the Conquistador, Spain's other UU is actually the City Raider 3 trebuchet or cannon. )
However, I'm not going to go for the smashy victory. I'm gonna play this out all the way to space, both to test the mod all the way through, and to see just how silly things can get in the later game. Great Person #3 now spawned as an Engineer from Madrid's mixed pool. I can't be sure of getting another, so if I want a hammer corp later, must save him now.
Anyway, I researched through the medieval age now. Literature, Code of Laws, Civil Service (Bureau), Drama (Globe), Paper (Sankore), Machinery, Engineering (with these city populations, must have Notre Dame), Music (stealing the Great Artist just ahead of Bismarck, who could at worst lightbulb for more than the tech's research cost, but he Golden Aged instead), Guilds, Philosophy (actually stolen from Monty to burn off some EPs),
By now, I've figured out where this mod really breaks the game balance. It's the Forge adding +25% to the food box. Cities are supposed to grow at a slightly declining pace, typically adding a 2-food tile for each growth size beyond its first few resource tiles. But the Forge makes big cities with more hammers grow faster, not slower. Add the Apostolic Palace free hammers, and you've got a raft of size 20 cities by 1000 AD.
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