At this point, I put the game down for a while. Two full months, to be exact. I actually played everything up to this point before the game even opened; I was otherwise idle during the holiday week, last week of December. After that, I got into planning, playtesting, and reporting Adventure 35, then also got diverted into several games of Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri.
In fact, I wasn't even sure I'd finish at all. Two hundred turns still to go, each one labor-intensive to the tune of ten minutes or more. 200 x 10 = too many minutes. I still had a billion things to build: flood one corp's executives everywhere, the full set of espionage buildings, railroads, Malls, Laboratories, Airports, Recycling Centers, up to five temples per city and five cathedrals in each border city. The Mall is actually pretty good - it really reads "You don't necessarily have to run Emancipation" with the happiness. And 20% cash works out great for a corp HQ city.
Cristo Redentor finally at long last completed, and I ditched State Property for Free Market (ouch, +400 distance maintenance after inflation!) to finally get corporations going. I took Emancipation for the moment because of too much anger, but just a few turns later I got Rock N Roll, Eiffel, and Malls all completed for another big whack of happy.
Which corporation to make my primary? The only candidates are Sid's Sushi and Creative Constructions, to earn points for legendary cities and more land area. I hesitated on that call for a very long time (two months), but eventually just had to go with good old Sushi. Both would have about the same level of productivity, but food is more flexible, and helps new cities grow sooner.
I finally realized I was trying to answer the question in the wrong direction. I was thinking about border cities and culture to grab territory and flips -- CreateCon could help build cathedrals -- but that's irrelevant. Border cities would get both corps anyway. The question was which corp all my old core non-border cities wanted, and that was clearly the more flexible Sushi.
(I did found three other corps for denial purposes: Ethanol in the Oxford city, Mining Inc in the Ironworks city, and Civ Jewelers in the Wall Street city. None would ever expand past the HQ.)
Unfortunately I couldn't get any Great Merchant, and Sitting Bull got his hands on Cereal Mills. But he would never do anything with that corp either, after he went to State Property and stayed there the entire rest of the game. (State Property disabling corporations may make logical sense, but just renders that civic completely unusable in the late game.)
Every city on the Babylon and Native American borders, plus my four border cities over in "Canada", received Creative Constructions and three or four cathedrals. This should easily make them all Legendary before the end of time, while grabbing tiles and flips for score.
I would now COMPLETELY abuse Cristo Redentor on the Labor column, switching civics almost every turn. You can get 100% of Serfdom's benefits and 50% of Emancipation's benefits at the same time. Turn one, flip to Serfdom before all the workers work. Turn two, let all the workers work at Serfdom speed, then flip to Emancipation for the production phase. The same works for Slavery; by revolting mid-turn, whipping is available every turn either before or after the revolt.
After Robotics, I also mixed in Nationhood to the civic swapping, skimming a few mechanized drafts off overpopulated cities while also running Free Speech on half the turns.
For health reasons, I intentionally disconnected my coal. I think rejecting coal is the right thing to do most of the time. What does coal get you? Railroads, coal plants, a marginal Ironworks boost, and Ironclad ships. Oil supersedes coal for railroads, and the Three Gorges Dam supersedes coal plants, and Ironclads are about as useful as iron toilet paper. Half of an Ironworks is not at all worth +3 unhealthy per city.
Plus, now I don't need to found Aluminum Co -- the AIs can never spread it to me if my cities don't have coal.
Anyway, I built the Internet for a boost towards future tech, collecting Artillery, Rocketry, Flight. Then I discovered I could even start Future Tech early (turn 314, 1888 AD!) and just wait for the Internet to fill in the rest of the techs from the AIs. (Laser, Ecology, Fission, Fusion.) I got SDI up quickly - don't think I've ever built it before. And yes, this is absolutely the first time ever in the history of Civ 4 that anybody has ever lost the Engineer at Fusion to an AI.
I apologize for this wall of text, but I had to stop taking screenshots. I started running into some pretty severe PC problems. Every couple hours, Civ would crash or the machine would even cold boot. The stability seemed to improve by running in full-screen mode (windowed is my usual) and not tabbing over to Paint Shop to paste in screenshots, so I stopped taking pictures for quite a while.
Here's one that was important enough, though. At LONG last, on turn 315, while researching Future Tech, I collected my first cultural flip. I should have disbanded this sorry iceberg, but my giddiness on getting the flip prematurely hit the button to accept.
And a gallery of some more flips:
This one I disbanded so I could plant a city in my choice of location.
Also disbanded so I wouldn't have to look at its name anymore and think "Batwing" every time.
I had my eyes on this one for a LONG time. But it MUST be disbanded - why? Because it's sitting on coal! :D Well, actually... with 10 healthy from Future Tech, I suppose the coal really doesn't hurt any more.
Flips five and six came on consecutive turns, towards Babylon. I disbanded them and replaced both with Tacoma here to continue eating away at Babylonian territory. I'd run out of Creative Construction slots by now so this city would have to do it entirely with Sushi and cathedrals.
I didn't get a screenshot, but flip seven was Sipurla, the Islamic holy city! Didn't affect the diplomatic landscape (Babylon was still Jewish and owned that holy city), but I later built the shrine for extra cash.
And I finally started to speed up the game. When I took that break from the game, the years were creeping along at about twenty minutes per turn. But that was the nadir, micromanaging corporate executives and religious missionaries and all the city build queues and civic swaps and border defense and railroads and terraforming over the AI's farms and workshops. In time, all the railroads got done, all the city build queues finished, the corporations completed, and the game finally speeded up.
I also saw my first ever Nuclear Meltdown. On the far continent, the Three Gorges Dam had no effect, so those cities had to build nuke plants. A total of two meltdowns would happen before the end of the game. They're really no big deal, just clean the fallout and 15 turns later the city has regrown.
Now my primary concern was avoiding any declarations of war against me. I make no exaggeration when I say that any DoW would have been instantaneous Game Over. I'd have no stomach for killing off five hundred enemy mech infantry.All the AIs on the far continent were very reluctant to trade maps, so I sent a leftover Sentry knight to wander around for map updates. WHOA that's a big stack. Dear deity, how many units are these guys going to build by turn 500?
Well, the response to that has to be to build even more units myself and totally dominate the power graph. Somehow, several of the AIs turned up missing either aluminum or oil. Fine with me to have them not building tanks and armors. Every city that finished its roster of buildings (many were superfluous, like aqueducts and hospitals with Future Tech health) cranked units. Many drafted mechs too with surplus population.
And... well... after a while I pretty much stopped playing the game. I set all the cities with a rally point, and every turn just hit "Fortify All" on that tile. Check Ctrl-Tab for any important events, then hit next turn. I got into quite a nice rhythm doing that, while playing Playstation games at the same time, and blew through over 100 turns in a weekend. All the workers went on full automation (although in many cases they weren't responsive to fixing up global-warmed tiles. Desert hills or rivers can still be improved.) I stopped bothering to expand religions for more temples and cathedrals. I stopped looking for cracks and push spots on the cultural borders. I should have gone to Caste System and optimized each city for artists to reach Legendary, but didn't bother.
Belatedly, I changed out of Uni Suffrage to Representation, garnering an extra 2k research! And a very belated revolt to Free Religion. Ok, so I lose the Sistine culture bonus, but that's almost made up for by the natural culture of 5 religions in each city.
That last was really necessary for this:
Ok, she is already Friendly, but that's too close for comfort and I'd feel much better without that -4. But what is she up to? What's On Her Hands?
Holy power graph spike! I say again, What's On Her Hands?
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