So a short time of peace ensued, while I waited for Mansa to research Machinery and then I researched Guilds myself. There wasn't much danger now. I was rapidly running out of threats. Going clockwise around the pizza, Sitting Bull and Isabella were still "fighting" each other. Louis capitulated, Alexander died, Montezuma was laughably backwards (no Monarchy even, never mind Feudalism), Mansa was my other vassal, and Boudica was both pleased and restrained in by a strong hilltop city. That left only...
you guessed it. Gah, what is it with Caesar declaring war five turns before I'm ready? Look at that research progress there! ONE TURN from Guilds!
Okay, Spain will have to wait. Fortunately, the city on my border with Caesar just happens to be my Heroic Epic city. :) It's on a hill and walled, although it does need to weather quite a storm of catapults incoming. Anyway, I queued up Chariots in every nearby city now and whipped them when the build orders changed to Knights on the next turn.
Fortunately, Caesar's stack got stupid. First it bypassed my city for just the one extra turn that I needed for all those knights to come out. Then it split in half.
Half of the units - all the catapults - moved onto white circle there, while most of the melee units (shown in the list) stayed on the green circle. That allowed me a turn to counterattack from tile X. And then on my next turn, everything could move back into Lakamha to defend against the second incoming stack.
Finally, just to add another tactical insult, knocking off the first stack gave me a replacement Great General for a Medic III to heal everybody.
This also seemed like a key time to finally fire my 1-man Golden Age. (I'd get Banking by the end of it for the free change to Mercantilism.) I also finally picked a state religion, Christianity, which had managed to spread to me through closed borders, and was owned and APed by the rival I most wanted to befriend, Boudica. (Hello el dumbo - I'd been paying civic upkeep for Org Rel for the last 100 turns without using it!)
Caesar got Engineering, which scared me - there's a pikeman now. Fortunately, his Iron is on the border too just like Russia's was, and I captured it early and easily. My Shock Knight there even got lucky at 30% attack odds and beat that pikeman. I captured Caesar's first two cities, but then the next one built a castle (25 Accuracy catapult shots to strip!)
While amassing siege for that, Boudica finally declared war on me, forcing me to sign peace with Caesar. I took Civil Service.
Fighting Boudica went by-the-book: first mop up a stack of about 20 ancient units. The Landsknecht scared me some, but she had only one in her initial stack, and then tried to move it to pillage my gold instead of protecting the pile. That let my first musketman knock off the UU, and all my knights started dismantling the rest of the stack, at a kill ratio of 20:1.
Well, I decided that this might end up taking a while. Research directed to Rifling (I already have Gunpowder via Guilds.) That also goes through Printing Press.
Or maybe this won't take a while! All I did was knock off her ancient unit stacks - I didn't even invade her territory - and she keeled over anyway. Since she has Engineering, Landsknechts, and castles, it's best to just take her vassalization the easy way.
Next target, back to Isabella. She did get longbows, but is far from Castles (still lacks Metal Casting! and is busy researching Divine Right.) Also, she now blew her EPs in uselessly blowing up some improvement, which granted me City Visibility to see her entire army. Not too scary, except for those 6 elephants, the natural enemy of knights. Well, muskets do beat them, plus I do have one elephant and pikeman of my own.
At Madrid, I had my first really bad RNG swing all game, losing three consecutive attacks at 70%, 80%, and 90%. But sheer power carried the day and Spain was shortly eliminated.
OK, maybe I do sometimes get a "meh" resource pop. That's my Heroic Epic city and actually cuts its hammer production by one. Got no need for happiness with a map full of resources plus Ball Courts and three vassals.
Here's an overview, with annotation showing the sequence of my wars. Now I was building only muskets, in preparation to shut down research and upgrade them all to rifles for the final push.
Montezuma of Rome is next (and hopefully last.) I'd avoided him so far because of his Praetorians, but now he was definitely a preferable target to Caesar again or Sitting Bull. Yes, that's ALPHABET he's researching in 1455 AD. He still doesn't even have Feudalism. This AI just somehow turned in an entire dud of a game. It's normal for Montezuma to lag in research, but he didn't build enough units to go attacking, either -- he was never a factor on the power graph. After finishing, I reloaded a save to poke around in Worldbuilder and try to figure out what happened to him. He didn't have a crashed economy - almost every tile was cottaged. He had happy cap problems, having gotten Monarchy and Calendar both very late. But even having cities stuck at sizes 6-7 shouldn't be fatal either. I really don't know how this Montezuma fizzled so badly.
Anyway, conquering Montezuma went easily. Knights and muskets crush archers and handle praetorians. However, one glitch came when Louis my vassal beat me to conquering Rome city!
Conquering all of Monty-Rome would have gotten me just about up to the domination threshold at 60%, but now I think I'm not over the top and I'll have to make one more attack on Caesar.
My vassals researched Nationalism, which I ignored for the moment, intending to trade for it after beelining rifles. I didn't care about Taj, though I could go for some Nationhood abuse to finish this off. Besides, I'm already building a wonder for a Golden Age. My capital put out Great Prophet #3, and another city did the National Epic and hired some specialists in order to put out a partner for the 2-man Golden Age. With that, I went to Nationhood / Theocracy and drafted a bunch of rifles. Funny, drafting rifles is the point when you're supposed to start exploding on your military targets, but now it's just mop-up.
I did attack Caesar one last time, and all it took was capturing the first two border cities with cavalry. (I skipped taking any more pictures, wanting to get this over with.)
Domination Victory in 1585 AD.
The score graph, telling the general story of the game. (That's my line on top of course, not Sitting Bull's. In Paint Shop I brightened it from the nearly-invisible dull green.) And some replays:
Well, I was skeptical of Ruff's game at first, but I'm glad I played. It sure did become very compelling. I was really wondering at first how everything in Ruff's description could come true without any special variants or game rules. But the map was an inspired idea and absolutely delivered. We tried this sort of game once before in Civ 3 Epic 19, but the result was the AIs attacking each other, a problem which was brilliantly avoided here.
That said, surviving that initial dogpile was HARD even with the Feudalism slingshot. Don't forget that Vassalage civic was also key, for the extra XP and unit support. I have no idea at all how to beat that avalanche without longbowmen. Without strategic resources, nothing else counters axemen and swordsmen, and catapults are a long way away. Holkans are too weak. Enough Protective archers on hills might survive behind city walls, but they can't counterattack anything, they can just watch the countryside get torn up while the price for peace escalates. Keying on the resourceless longbow was the secret to this scenario. We'll see on report day how that all worked out.
Thanks to Ruff for the game!