And now there was nothing to do but wait. Wait for the cities to grow up to size, wait for the cottages to mature, wait for somebody out in the fog to start sending caravels.
Hakuna... Matata... Hakuna... Matata... Hakuna... Matata...
Rising up to the challenge of our fathers...
And the last known survivor stalks his prey in the night...
For a while, I was researching techs just as slowly as my cities could build the buildings. Marketplaces took about 20 turns each to build while researching Code of Laws. Then the courthouses took about 15 turns each and so did Metal Casting research. Forges came while finally filling in the religious part of the tree to Monotheism. (Yeah, I got to Code of Laws by the rarely-used Currency path.)
Gradually my research rate improved from that flatline 0% in 200 AD, to 20% by 500 AD, and 40% by 750 AD.
Tiwanaku prepared to start the Forbidden Palace with several forest chops just as the sixth courthouse finished. And with my research rate now cresting over 50%, I timed three more settlers to be trained and positioned just as the Forbidden Palace would finish.
Next on the economic docket was a revolt to Organized Religion (we could afford the civic upkeep now), then Monarchy for Hereditary Rule since my cities had grown to the current happy cap of 10.
So the Forbidden Palace completed in 980 AD, as I finished building cities to fill in the west coast.
My research rate had nearly hit 50% a few turns ago, before the new cities knocked it back to about 35%. The Forbidden Palace then cut my distance maintenance from 30 to 12 (plus inflation) and got me right back up to 45%. And my research path was now Sailing - Calendar as the new cities had bananas that needed plantations.
And you can see Huayna's corpse still over there in the corner. Presently I dispatched my remaining swordsmen (who had been busy clearing barb cities and units before I settled the frontier) to take out that city, and also happened to whack an emerging settler on the way to capture a worker.
While that was happening, though, so was this!
Well, well, it's good old Mansa Musa. No doubt Sulla picked him specifically as the strongest economic AI in order to challenge the player towards space. At least he's always willing to share his toys.
OK, so how far behind are we?
And double egads.
Well, you may notice that there's a certain, rather important, technology missing from that list on Mansa's side. And you may have noticed that I haven't made any mention of acquiring it myself. And you may have noticed that I haven't made any mention of what I've been doing with Great People.
Well, I've had a plan. My city of Madras had three food resources and some flood plains, but few land tiles to work. So it had been running some Merchant specialists for a while. And it just so happens that this is going to work:
However, I didn't even revolt to Bureaucracy. I needed Civil Service primarily for the chain irrigation; Bureaucracy wasn't worth the turn of anarchy. My capital had no cottages and no Academy, so Bureaucracy would provide a mere 15 beakers per turn (with a net of half that after civic upkeep costs) and a few hammers. That wouldn't pay back for the turn of anarchy before I got to Free Speech. Since I now knew the way was clear to research Paper - Education as trade bait, I was heading straight for the Liberalism slingshot and Free Speech. So no Bureaucracy this game.
Unfortunately, Mansa got Civil Service the same turn I did, so no trade payoff here.
But a few turns later, Cyrus sailed up, and another few turns later, so did Frederick.
Fred shared a religion with Mansa and was equally advanced. However, Cyrus trailed by a few techs, and was willing to trade both of us a big step closer to parity.
After that, I researched Paper first and traded it to each of my three rivals for Construction, Compass, Optics, and a chunk of world map, then re-sold the map for everybody else's maps. So that's 4-techs-for-1, plus maps for free. Who says brokering is dead?
Anyway, here's said map. (Amusingly enough, it counted for circumnavigation though I haven't built a single boat.)
Cyrus is isolated like me, which explains why he trailed in tech. I didn't realize it until later, but I was quite fortunate that Cyrus prioritized Optics and caravels. Alone with lousy terrain, Persia could not research quickly. If he had chosen another tech path, I could've been left without a trading partner for a long time to come - perhaps unsurmountably long.
Mansa and Frederick share an island, along with a Greek civilization that we haven't yet contacted. I've got twice as many cities as any rival, and more than enough time to catch up and pass them before the space race. So the road to victory is clear. The only danger is losing an important city to a naval sneak attack. Usually I keep cities manned with cheap police units, ready to upgrade them in the event of war, but the Gauntlet rule prevents that. I'll have to be careful about keeping all the coastal cities guarded with at least a couple up-to-date units.
That leads into the longer term part of my economic strategy - getting to Democracy quickly. I really want a safety net in the event of war. With Slavery, Nationhood, and upgrading all off the table, the only option for emergency military is Universal Suffrage cash rushing. Also, I have a heavy cottage economy now, so Universal Suffrage will already be a natural choice. Finally, I have several new cities that are late on the growth curve, so Emancipation will be quite helpful especially with Slavery off the table anyway. (I'm still in Tribalism now and won't change until Emancipation.)
Also in that screenshot, you can see one of my cities is taking a flyer on the Great Library. I'd gotten Marble hooked up in the west, so I figured I'd either land a great wonder or at least get a hefty cash refund. Unfortunately I missed it by two turns but at least collected a 400 gold piggy bank for consolation.
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