Well, the idea became obvious pretty quickly. The first ring of peaks was revealed from the start, which must have been done deliberately, you can't see anything from 3 tiles away. And after moving the scouts, I see the jig. There's 8 directions separated by mountains, and a Large map allows 8 civs. So I put two and two (or eight and eight) together and immediately started thinking of pizza.
Clearly we're meant to settle on the starting point and I can't see any reason not to do so. And it's a plains hill.
Knowing Ruff, I bet our 8 rivals all share a trait or something in common, and by the game description, probably the Aggressive trait. I bet at most one other civ has Mysticism. So for the first time in a very long time, I went for an early religion. For the CULTURE more so than anything else, since once we expand the capital to 750 culture, that will close off the borders permanently.
Even with the early religion research, we do start with Mining, which will give a starting worker something to do, so I went for one first.
But the first two civs I contacted were Mansa Musa (of America) and Louis XIV (of China), both clearly not Aggressive. So sure enough...
Nuts. (I later found that Spain, of course, got Buddhism. Hinduism also fell too soon before I would've had a chance.)
BTW, this is clearly not a Large map even though it's tagged so; presumably the Large tag was to get eight rival civs. That means tech will go slower than it should. Plus we're on Epic speed. That means a conquesting game plan.
OK, new plan. Build Stonehenge, both for my capital's culture and for expanding other cities. Based on Ruff's description, metals will be unreachable and probably horses too. What's the best early resourceless unit? Longbowmen, which means a trip to Feudalism. Ideally via Oracle.
The fastest way there is this, actually exactly the same plan as in my previous game. Stonehenge will produce a Great Prophet, and if I avoid Writing long enough to block CoL and Theology, the GP can lightbulb Monarchy. Then finish Writing, and Oracle Feudalism. Then... longbow rush somebody?
Well, for the moment, switch research to Agri to get the freshwater corn farmed. After the worker, Mutal did a warrior for police, then started straight on Stonehenge. After Agri, Hunting - AH to enable scouts, Holkans and the cow and look for horses.
One scout made Woodsman II quickly but then got eaten by a lion at 4.4% odds. I wanted to send out a holkan to replace him, but apparently they require Bronze Working even though don't actually require metal. Anyway, Mutal risked pausing Stonehenge a moment for a replacement scout.
Halfway through Stonehenge, I realized my error. Culture isn't necessary. Just the fat cross of Mutal already prevents each civ from contacting anyone but its diagonally adjacent neighbors -- who they'll contact over the mountain ranges anyway. Well, too late to back out now.
I got Henge as planned on turn 56. The Great Prophet would arrive in 74 turns = turn 130, 750 BC to lightbulb Monarchy and Oracle Feudalism. This will be close but I think it will work. The AIs should get a slower start than usual on Monarch, without extra starting units and with the cottage-happy BTS AI.
Anyway, after that somewhat disorganized start, it's time to get settlers going. The biggest constraint on my Oracle-Feudalism plan is enough commerce for all the cheap religious techs plus Writing. Since I won't have the beakers to spare for The Wheel and Pottery, that commerce must come directly from resources.
So here's city two, claiming gold along with two food resources (and on a plains hill.)
And city three, in a totally daft location with no food, but GOLD GOLD GOLD.
City four was a captured barb city (with holkans, defended only by warriors.) I'm now (finally) on track to finish all my researches before the GP spawns, so I kept the city. Its plunder cash should cover its maintenance costs long enough.
On a higher strategic level, I've resolved to sign no Open Borders agreements. Keep every civ in their pizza box as long as possible. Cut off their contacts, and that will slow everybody's tech pace while keeping myself in the lead.
So here's an overview with my just-founded fifth city, Uxmal. This is a commerce city, and well situated on a plains hill behind a river to resist attack from Boudica.
The limiting factor in my plan is no longer research (Writing in 7) or the Oracle itself (9), but the Great Prophet to bulb Monarchy (due in 11.)
Great! Well, I still need to clean up several details. Definitely need The Wheel and Pottery, and also Archery to actually, ya know, BUILD longbows.
I also kicked into a massive four-way civics swap (only 3 turns, so the fourth was a freebie). HR and Vassalage are obvious. I have no religion yet, but since Org Rel is a freebie, I'll take it now. Serfdom might sound unusual, but I quite need it here. Not going to whip for a while with everything in growth mode, and I'm seriously behind in building roads and cottages.
Finally, let's talk about Unrestricted Leaders for a moment. It made sense to combine for the player a Protective leader with a resourceless UU. But on the AI side, it just got confusing. I could NOT stop thinking of the north-northeast pizza slice as Rome, even though it was actually Julius Caesar of India, while the Praetorians were under Montezuma's hand on the other side. (Yes. Yikes.) I _had_ to draw up a little cheat-sheet for myself (and, as it happens, for the spectators who haven't played it. )
Isn't the optical illusion in the middle annoying?
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