I've expanded to two cities beyond my home island. The priority is to find 1) good spots for economic productivity with food resources, and 2) make sure to get at least one city on every reachable island, to liberate for a colony later.
You can also see the extent of my exploration on the minimap. I think this is all that's reachable by galley, so I'm beelining Optics as fast as possible now. Speaking of that, Oporto finally popped my Great Scientist now. After some poring over the tech tree, it turns out that the only thing in the way of him lightbulbing Optics is Mathematics! One quick research to that later:
Splendid. Optics in 340 AD! With the Portuguese Carrack, I should have the world's islands all to myself for at least a hundred turns until my rivals start discovering Astronomy.
Soon as I got Optics, I started a carrack going in each direction. I'd prebuilt settlers and escorts to load onto the ships, to be dropped off at the first lucrative port. And when I'd gotten Optics, the visibility showed me there was an island just west of my homeland. I prebuilt a settler and had him ready to go with the carrack launch. That all led to:
Contact with William of Orange... up four techs on me including Civil Service!
I signed Open Borders, and eagerly looked for more of those juicy Great Lighthouse-enhanced foreign trade routes... but no dice, need Astronomy for that. I wandered the settler and axeman on the island for a few turns, and picked a spot close to home on the west end, with fish and gems.
Next research after Optics had to be Currency, to further push my trade route economy. And when that came in, here's an overview shot.
By the way, look at the amazing early size of my capital city there. Size 17 with almost a dozen police units and plenty of health from Expansive and forests. And I'm moving into Bureaucracy. That capital is spawning settlers at incredible speed - 3 turns each now, 2 turns each once in Bureaucracy - and I owned all those nearby islands in short order.
Now, I've been kind of in the dark here on the rules for spawning colony vassals. I had those single-city islands, intending to spawn them off into colonies. Since the option wasn't available yet, I sensibly figured that Feudalism was necessary to spawn vassals. But now I got that tech in trade, and the colony option is there, but only for the one island where I have two cities. So you can't spawn a colony vassal from just one city?
Well then. I've sort of screwed myself at the likes of Braga, on an island with no resources. I founded it entirely to spawn a colony to vote for me later. But now I've gotta keep that city for the duration, and it's going to be an economic liability for quite some time and a defensive liability forever. It took a very long time to become useful, but did become a late game wonder builder with enough hammer power from mines and watermills.
Incidentally, I noticed this about oceans:
If you turn on "Show Yields", the game will indicate ocean tiles that are within two squares of land. You can sort of figure that anyway by looking for the subtle water shading on such ocean tiles, but that makes it obvious.
And I figured that after Civil Service and Bureaucracy, I had to go straight for Astronomy. Carracks are nice but galleons are better, and I really need to turn on overseas trading, both for the foreign trade routes and to hook up my overseas resources (notably the gems.)
Presently the Apostolic Palace was built for Hinduism, which William had founded and Caesar had adopted -- the top two civs on the score chart. Seemed like a great idea to get into religious friendship with my two top rivals, plus use the AP building bonus and (later) the residency. By luck, Hinduism had spread to one of my cities on the south island. I sent a missionary from there to a home city, more missionaries from there to the rest of the homeland, and converted.
Leader Three spawned as another Prophet from my capital (I'd really wanted a Merchant from the Great Lighthouse, to lightbulb Paper or Guilds.) I held on to him until I was ready for the Hinduism conversion, then popped the Golden Age. I really needed this - my economy had sunk to 20% research while limping to Astronomy - and this Golden Age gave me the boost to get there and turn on all the foreign trade routes.
So I'd filled up all the reachable useful land nearby. Clockwise from the capital: two cities on the southeast island (shared with Spain), two cities on the south island, three cities on the island near the Dutch, two on the island northeast of home, and the lone city of Braga over near the Spanish and Ottoman homes. All these cities seemed useful to keep for myself: the maintenance costs were tolerable, the land was arable for at least a few cottages per city, and they had useful resources I wanted to keep.
Now, though, I started sending out carracks with pairs of settlers to less interesting islands, to start spawning my colonies. Here's the first one.
Lincoln appeared with it -- not a bad choice, since Emancipation will be natural later to help relations.
And here's the second one.
On Rome's island in the south, there was a barbarian city. I trained a couple macemen and sent them there. This mission had two purposes: one, to train up a 10 XP unit for the Heroic Epic in my capital; and two, to clear the land and establish my third colony.
Unlike the first two, this colony would be quite useful for resources, with marble and silver. Actually, I probably would have done this colony anyway even in the absence of variant rules; this is very much the natural situation for one. Dismal terrain that would make for completely useless cities, but three useful resources.
One little detail with that colony; I had to gift workers to my vassal to make him quarry the marble for me, since your workers can't work within the territory of a rival, even if it's a vassal.
Colony four, formed from one settler and a captured barbarian city:
Colony five, which also bore a useful resource (whales), for which I later sailed over a work boat and gifted it.
"+10 You have granted us our independence!" More like "-50 You have stuck us on this miserable iceberg!"
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