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In a parallel universe

So, I had to try this again. Remember that part where I passed on using the Great Artist to flip an enemy capital? I have to try that, though might not play out the game all the way. My plan is to settle 3 tiles away from an enemy capital, use the Great Artist to culture bomb, and settle the Great Engineer in order to build Stonehenge. (It seems quite a waste to just clock Stonehenge; the settled engineer should be enough to build it, then the hammers and beakers are pure profit.)

I tried to play as if I wasn't spoiled for map knowledge, but in general just moved the settlers to places they didn't go the first time around. This ended up with Thebes in the south, blocking Greece. Note that it is not possible to settle 3 tiles away from the Greek capital, so my Artist will have to look elsewhere. This is a bit inefficient in that I won't have the Palace culture helping towards the flip. But founding Thebes now is necessary to get started on Mysticism research for Stonehenge, and the palace culture is just a small loss.

Popped both Agriculture and Wheel from huts, very convenient, so research right to Mysticism.

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Crap! Just before I was going to settle, Mehmed founded Edirne with his second starting settler. In a bad site - one more tile north gets corn, or east for pigs. He must have seen my settler and founded just ahead of it - can the AI do that?

Well, that leaves me a pretty bad set of options. I can still reach Istanbul at three-tile range from the south (three tile distance being essential to make the flip work), which also does reach Edirne at fourth-ring, but that's a totally crap site without the power to even build Stonehenge. There's a symmetrical site north of the fledgling Ottomans, except that the location is a stupid lake! The best I can do is the highlighted tile, which can crush Istanbul but can't reach Edrine at fourth-ring.

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Well, here we are. With the Engineer settled in Memphis, gotta hope that 15 turns to the wonder is soon enough. I can't reach Bronze in time to chop, and it has no hills for Mining to help.

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The first revolt came pretty quickly, on the third possible turn. That's luck with me - the maximum revolt odds are only ever 10%.

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And there's Stonehenge -- okay, even Deity AIs don't build it by turn 25, at least most of the time. But my ownership of Istanbul's tile is inevitably declining. Stonehenge will slow that decline, especially after it doubles... will it be enough?

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I kept the city, even at the awkward spacing between it and Memphis. I'd rather have a cramped city than no city. However, that did bump Mehmed's settler out into the wild. That settler beat me to the pigs-banana area.

This time I had one of my starting cities on the south coast, and used it to execute what seemed to be another part of the sponsor's vision. I alertly whipped a galley soon, and shipped that Explorer over to the southeast island. I was rewarded with...

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oh, you are kidding me. Explorers can't attack a guarded hut. But then elsewhere:

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Horseback Riding from a hut! That clearly sets in motion the next plan. Whip and chop... (oh yeah, they require Archery, well, build stables while doing that) a total of 8 horse archers, and KILL.

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And look at that, I caught Mehmed's archers pantsless, in that silly strategy of wandering units around for show that the AI does. Edirne was defended by three archers and Ankara by two. The RNG blessed me well this time. I captured both Edirne and Ankara on the first turn, going 5-for-5 on archer kills at 69, 74, 73, 71, and 68%.

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Aside: There's an extremely fine line for a horse archer to have the advantage over a defending archer. 6 strength plus Combat promotions was just barely enough to get the advantage over these archers at 69% odds instead of 31%. If the archer is on a hill or Protective, it gets that very slight strength edge that turns into a huge odds swing and this attack would not be possible.

This is also where Combat promotions shine, since they apply a full +10% to the horse's 6 strength. If they subtractively applied to the archer instead, that would apply only about a 5% difference to the archer's final strength, going from roughly 3+100% to 3+90% instead. Combat is good here not because the horse is stronger in base strength, but because all of the horse's strength is base. SevenSpirits, do I understand this correctly now?

So my horses healed and promoted and wiped out the last two fringe Ottoman cities. Then they also went after two barbarian cities in the far southwest.

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1000 BC - wowee, 13 cities! Even with State Property, that's hurtling towards bankruptcy. I'm carefully staying at 0% research 100% cash right now, in order to live on burning my profits from conquering.

How do I fix that? Same as always. Cottages and wait. Courthouses aren't so hot, with State Property already zeroing the distance maintenance. Going to have to beeline Currency ASAP, though even Writing is a slow lurch. My biggest problem now was the happy cap - not a single happy resource was available until that northern gold came online. Sury beat me to the gems area. The two westernmost cities were captured from barbarians (defended only by warriors, same as in the other game), and included that important ivory resource for more happy. Those took some time to expand and connect, but eventually they did. Also Stonehenge spawned a Great Prophet (aided by running some priests at times via the Egypt UB Obelisk), who settled for the gold.

So Writing took seemingly forever, researched mostly by the beakers of that single lone settled Great Engineer. But once it came in, I whipped a few libraries to run scientists, which got through Mathematics and Currency itself in about 10 turns each. Currency is huge news not only for the trade route (which is worth even more than usual with many cities grown already), but also for markets, which both created a serious multiplier to economy and busted the happy cap for good.

I skipped the Kremlin and espionage economy on purpose. I broke them in my full playthrough, but I think they weren't really the intent of the scenario, just unavoidable side effects of making State Property available at Communism. This time I want to see if this kind of start can catch up legitimately.

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I now backfilled all the basics: Iron Working, Calendar, the religious techs up to Monarchy, and Metal Casting.

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And the year 1 AD has brought me to a total of 17 strong cities, including some island expansion. That's 250 beakers/turn, researching techs in 2 turns at 50% breakeven. Nope, didn't need espionage economy this time. I had been somewhat vulnerable to attack for a little while, but not now that I've made it to Feudalism. (Vassalage is easily superior to Bureaucracy, with lots of unit costs and a mediocre capital.)

That's enough for me. I kind of want to see how fast this can race to space with so many quick cottages, but the time investment isn't really worth it. Especially since the fastest way to space from here would be to conquer just shy of the domination limit and milk. Which I totally don't feel like doing. Let's let this one rest here; it's won.

I think this take really matched the sponsor's vision, more so than Kremlin and Intelligence Agency abuse. I made proper use of the Great Artist, of State Property, and of the map knowledge for that island and huts, popping a key tech for a big breakthrough. I'm satisfied. Thanks to the sponsor for an interesting setup indeed.