This is the story of my game of Civilization IV Adventure Forty-five from Realms Beyond Civilization.
I'm not really sure how this idea came to me. It just did. Musing two wonders rather than one was a direct result of my failed attempts to find some kind of synergy in the Mao's Muse game.
The biggest problem in the concept was dealing with the Great Person Points produced by the free wonders. We're not trying to play The Greatest Person over again; I want the wonders to shine for their own effects. I'm not looking for everybody to feel they must pick Engineer wonders to also get a free Pyramids or Scientist wonders for a super early Academy. And I want to minimize the impact of the inevitable 50/50 coin flip on the type of the first. I went through several different versions of a rule, and even considered a mod for -4 GPP at the capital. The final rule prevented the worst problems, while still allowing an Academy and Engineer-rushing at about the time you usually could.
For choosing a leader, I started with the Charismatic trait. This was a no-brainer choice. It has lots of synergy with wonder choices: West Point/Pentagon for conquering, or the Eiffel Tower (extra happy!) And it's a hybrid trait for either conquering or building, appropriate for the open-ended gameplay of this scenario. Finally it encourages a Stonehenge build, which will also disrupt the GPP pool.
Looking down the list of Charismatic leaders, I found Hannibal of Carthage. I deliberately didn't want either Ind or Phi to encourage more wonder spam, or another warlike trait. Financial will do fine. Carthage fits perfectly for the theme, being a civilization that never produced any wonders of the world in reality. And we've never used him before. (Carthage is underused in general, since the UU is bad, UB is average, and the traits don't synergize at all.)
And looking down the list of map scripts, I found Ring which we've also never used. That fits perfectly. Carthage wants to have coastal cities, both on theme and mechanically both for the Financial trait and the Cothon UB. And Ring sort of approximates the layout of the real-life Mediterranean Sea. To build on that theme, I deliberately selected opponents from the real Mediterranean, and arranged them geographically correctly. Part of this is just an intelligence test to see if anybody notices that I did that. (Mali perhaps should have been Spain; I'm just a bit tired of seeing Isabella.) Finally, Ring has those islands in the middle, making for a mini version of Terra map style exploration, in another nod to Mao's Muse.
I made fairly minimal map edits. Carthage needed to be a versatile site to work with whatever wonders you wanted, able to produce either food or hammers or commerce. But that happened naturally anyway without tampering on my part. And I liked the forests which should allow chopping of an early key wonder or two (like Stonehenge, Great Lighthouse, Pyramids) but not totally going nuts on wonder spam.
I left copper and iron where they spawned naturally, though in hindsight perhaps should have moved one or both closer. I did add the horses for the UU, and the gems and dyes since the player's area was quite barren of happy resources. The stone island spawned all by itself but I liked the idea: if you want the stone for wonders, it'll take some effort, either a weak-ish city on the island or wait for a fort from a mainland city.
I playtested a few turns with a handful of different wonders just to see what would happen. The United Nations works correctly, which I wasn't sure it would do: it automatically grants contact between all civs in the game. Looks like Julius Caesar wins the first election, which might throw some players for a surprise. The Apostolic Palace does not make out so well; it ends up with "No Religion" as its religion - everybody is a member until they adopt a real religion - which was bizarre and risky enough that I had to rule it out. I also discovered that if you select either Oxford or the Great Library and work the oasis, you can research through Mysticism and land Hinduism first. Wonder (har) if any players will think of and try that.
And it seems that if you pop the hut on turn 1 (with at least 8 culture of wonders), you get Hunting. Or on turn 2 you get a scout. Both are fine and don't hurt the balance of this event. I would have removed the hut if it popped something huge like Bronze Working or swingy like Mysticism. (The hut actually spawned on the forest hill, almost invisible there. I moved it south to the oasis just so we could see it. The gameplay effect would be identical.)
The last setup note was the difficulty, which is a matter of serious concern. Basically, the free wonders greatly magnify differences in skill level. A power wonder combo can reduce the true difficulty by easily more than a full level, but a weak combo can leave newer players struggling on Emperor and even Monarch. IMO, Mao's Muse suffered from being too low on difficulty - the free tech doesn't shine so much when you could be stomping the AIs without it anyway.
I thought a lot, then decided that this scenario really wanted to be up on Immortal. Let it be a skill tester. You've got the Financial trait and a map suited for it, easily defensible borders, befriendable neighbors, oh yeah and two free wonders. Emperor would be a cinch to win, playing somewhere below normal Monarch. Immortal should be not quite a cinch but not far from it. We'll run a separate Gentle Adventure later, and Adventures 43 and 44 were both on the easy side.
Now just a few comments on wonders. I write this before opening day, with no metagame information yet.
There is one certain wonder that I believe sits on another level of power and truly reveals the skill of those who choose it. The Kremlin. Whipping is already a vital part of early empire management, and the Kremlin truly breaks that. With the food available at this capital, you can get an explosive start by whipping the first worker and work boats. And any other food-heavy city can develop 50% faster with Kremwhips. To quantify it, the Kremlin adds 30 hammers per double-whip. If you can double-whip every 10 turns, the Kremlin adds 3 hammers/turn. That's way more than the Statue of Liberty. Finally, Great Spy points add to the skill-testing, being the biggest economic producer of any Great Person but requiring the right plan to exploit.
And I believe the next strongest wonder is Oxford University. If the Kremlin explodes up the production curve, Oxford explodes up the tech tree. Double research should mean no trouble pulling an Oracle-Civil Service slingshot even on Immortal. And Bureaucracy multiplies with Oxford, plus Carthage is a decently strong Financial cottage capital, and the game will snowball from there.
Both of those wonders may fly a bit below the radar. Kremlin is underused in regular games, since by the time you get it, you're either in Emancipation or unwilling anyway to whip big food boxes and highly productive tiles. And players might figure Oxford as easy to reach conventionally. But I think both of them have game-breaking effects when moved to the beginning of the game.
Or pair Kremlin with the Globe Theater.
On the flip side, the Statue of Liberty is probably the most splashy expensive wonder to choose. But I expect it to go to players that grok the game less well. It's only +1 hammer per city until it builds a library (or Caste), and even a scientist is just a financial coast tile. It's overall a red herring unless combined with the Pyramids (either by Muse or conventionally built), which is good but I think one can do better.
For a conquering game, some combination of West Point / Pentagon / Heroic Epic might prove interesting, or even the Red Cross. I'm not so interested in trying that myself, but hopefully somebody will. Note that the Heroic Epic even doubles your first two work boats.
And for culture, the Eiffel Tower is a hidden gem. +1 happy with the Charismatic trait and +50% culture in all cities. I'm not sure if it's stronger than the Kremlin/Oxford or Kremlin/Globe combos, but I hope somebody tries.
Some other solid choices, less powerful but again I hope somebody tries them: Great Library, Notre Dame, Ironworks (blank until you get iron, though then good), Cristo Redentor, maybe even Shwedagon Paya, or the good old Pyramids. And of course the United Nations makes for a completely different game all its own.
Finally, some choices that will get you thoroughly laughed at: Mount Rushmore, Space Elevator, Chichen Itza, Forbidden Palace, Hermitage.
And now for the part that everybody wants to see from me: The Metagame.