This is the story of my game of Civilization IV Adventure Fifty-five from Realms Beyond Civilization.
Since I've been running and sponsoring the RBCiv game series lately, Swiss Pauli stepping up as a sponsor means this is the first time in a long while that I get to compete as a player. Thanks Paul.
We are to go for a culture victory, with Always Peace, and the five most advanced civics (Universal Suffrage, Free Speech, Emancipation, Environmentalism, Free Religion) locked in from the start of the game. Scoring is by fastest culture finish, with a deduction based on which leader you pick.
Leader Turn Discount Victoria 0 (Financial) Joao 5 (Expansive) Suleiman 8 (Philosophical) Augustus 12 (Industrious) Catherine 15 (Creative) Justinian 18 (Spiritual) Julius 20 (Organized) Charlemagne 25 (Protective) Cyrus 30 (Charismatic) Genghis 33 (Aggressive)
So of course the first and biggest decision is right here. A couple stick out as underhandicapped and thus bad picks, particularly Suleiman. Philosophical is at its most valuable around Immortal difficulty, where some well-placed lightbulbs can multiply into enormous tech gains. But Philo really isn't much for a culture win; it ultimately amounts to only about two extra Great People, which are each less than two turns off culture finish time. Catherine is the other stinker, Creative does next to nothing here.
One direction I'm not going is the favored end of the scale. See, Swiss Pauli told me he did considerable playtesting to come up with those odds. But note that the handicapping is denominated in fixed turn values, not percentages or proportions. Since I'm a better player with loads of experience in culture blitzes, a good trait would save me fewer turns as the same proportion of a faster baseline. Suppose Financial develops you 10% faster than a junk trait like Aggressive. Pauli might find a difference of 33 turns from a T330 baseline, but I might get 25 turns off a T250 baseline. In other words, Pauli was likely to overshoot on the handicap numbers. So I should take a dark horse and feast on the long payoff odds.
But I can't just go with my gut without some quantification of the choices. For this analysis, it is easier to invert the original presentation of the weights. Consider Genghis as the baseline with a functionally blank trait, so that the other leaders must recoup the difference between Genghis and their handicap.
Victoria the Financial leader must gain 33 turns on Genghis to come out ahead. I know from experience that the critical path for blitz culture is getting all the cottages planted and working ASAP for the legendary cities. I guesstimate that the average cottage will get planted around turn 100, reaching town status on turn 135 with Emancipation, and let's say the win comes around turn 235. The Financial bonus improves each cottage from 685 to 815 commerce during this time, a 19% gain. Suppose 2/3 of the 150k culture comes from commerce, the rest being artists and buildings. Financial thus gains about 12.3% of the time between turn 100 and the win date, or something like 17 turns. Not enough. Financial is not strong enough to come in 33 turns ahead of Genghis. It may be for a weaker player with a longer baseline time, but not for me.
How much would Expansive gain? The map shows that we can't get 4 hammers for the worker bonus at turn zero, so that knocks three turns off Expansive's potential value. Very roughly, I figure that Expansive would save about 4 turns for each city on chopping the granary (every legendary city gets a granary chopped). The worker bonus also feels like 4 to 6 turns overall. In total, Expansive also doesn't have enough juice to overcome the handicap. The health bonus is moot with Environmentalism.
Industrious? 21 turns handicap to overcome, meaning that it comes out ahead only after each legendary city spends 63 turns wonder-building, which will not happen. Forges won't help, Metal Casting will come too late or perhaps never.
I'm dismissing a few without detailed analysis. Philosophical and Creative aren't leverageable enough. Neither is Organized, since the Emancipation cottages will ramp up quickly and we won't be in enough of a cash/research crunch to recover 13 turns over the baseline. Same goes for Charlemagne, whose trait is blank but he does bring the Rathaus, but that's not good enough to recover 8 turns.
Spiritual Justinian is the hardest to gauge. My first reaction was WOW snap him up at those odds, since Spiritual is the single best trait for culture normally thanks to the temple bonus... but then I realized that half of Spiritual goes to waste with civics locked in and never any anarchy. But the temple bonus is substantial. Figure 5 temples for every city times about 4 turns saved, and Justinian recoups 20 turns of building civ-wide! That's only building, not food or cottage growth, but this is the first of two leaders that I could see possibly recouping his handicap over the baseline of Genghis. Justinian also has just about the only non-blank UB on the slate.
Cyrus is the other possibility. Unlike Aggressive, Charismatic is not blank, giving an extra happy and two with a monument (worthwhile even if we skip Stonehenge.) And happiness is a an obstacle towards the primary objective of growing three legendary cities to 16+ cottages ASAP. Can this recover a measly 3 turns handicap over Genghis? Charismatic might enable an extra 2 happy for about 50 turns before the happy cap ramps up sufficiently with markets or the culture slider, or 100 citizen-turns per city. That's 5 turns of a size-20 endgame city, more than his 3T handicap. And those will be high-leverage turns, getting the 12th to 16th cottages per city online and growing to towns sooner. Real potential here.
So it's a close call between Justinian and Cyrus, the two leaders that I think can beat their handicap as compared to baseline Genghis. My tiebreaker is the chance that I'll replay the game with both leaders anyway. Cyrus then Justinian is a better order there, using the stronger leader second (it would be painful going from Spiritual to non-Spi.)
That leaves my final choice as Cyrus vs Genghis. I'm not sure that Charismatic will make up the 3 turn difference, which is dependent on how few happy resources the map gives us. But it's likely that Charismatic will make up at least 1 or 2 turns, and if the map is severely happy constrained, it could be 6 or more turns. So I think Cyrus does carry slightly better expected value on average. Plus it'll be a bit more fun to play with a weak trait over a completely blank one.