I'd been holding off on picking a religion until seeing how the diplomatic landscape played out. Judaism escaped from the Hydra more so than the other two religions, and I was leaning towards it. Then Mr. Montezuma made the decision for me:
Sure, whatever you say, boss. Especially since you're already on the rampage and attacking Madrid!
On the domestic front, Ottawa kept cranking settlers and workers after the Parthenon, grabbing a good chunk of land. All the new cities built libraries first to get the scenario points at 250 AD.
As for research, I went for Alphabet once all the wonder prerequisites were taken care of (though I actually wasn't first to it; Hatty was), and I traded around for the usual haul: Iron Working, Mathematics, Monotheism, and a couple other cheap fill-ins. Next came Calendar to get all those Plantation resources improved.
I also put out a few extra axemen from Ottawa (this city had more production than I knew what to do with), to capture a barb city that popped up to the south.
And here's the lay of the land at our checkpoint of 260 AD. I apologize for the scarcity of strategy and pictures leading up to this -- I was in total focus mode on the game and the scenario scoring checkpoint.
I got four libraries (Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton) and two temples (Ottawa and Toronto) for 6 points. Vancouver couldn't quite make it to size 4 to double-whip the library in time, and Montreal hasn't gotten a religion to be able to build a temple.
The city placement was rather haphazard, to say the least. Toronto was a strong site, but all the rest were marginal grabs of whatever land was left after I set myself back with two early expensive wonders.
And Phrygian was the captured barb city. That was actually a great stroke of luck for me; if that land remained virgin, Saladin or Peter would have settled it before I could do so. But with the barb city there, I was able to react faster with a squad of axemen. This city would only be marginally useful, since it's in poor terrain with no new resources and would never claim its full city radius away from Arabian culture. But a half city is still better than no city.
My GNP is doing fairly well, though not on top. I'm actually not trying to build my economy much at all - I'm hardly building any cottages. I'm much more focused on hammer production, for military defense and for cultural items before that 1502 AD checkpoint. On Prince difficulty and an overcrowded map, I can self-research fairly slowly and still easily trade to stay on the leading edge of technology.
With Aggressive AI on, the tribute demands came fast and furious. As usual, I gave away techs and gold whenever asked, but refused any invitation to war or cancelling deals. Spain and Azteca got embroiled in a lengthy war, each leader coming to ask my help about every dozen turns, but I had to decline them all.
And despite granting Caesar a demand for Spices, this came only a couple turns later:
Well, I certainly hadn't been ignorant of Aggressive AI and an overcrowded map. War was certainly coming, the question was just which direction. I'm well prepared, with two archers in most cities and about six axemen total.
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