Chronicling the narrative a bit out of order here, the following threads started during the Babylon war. I was now going to need nukes for France, so I researched Fission and then Rocketry while building the Manhattan Project. I took advantage of the techs by building some Guided Missiles in faraway cities, and some submarines to carry both the conventional missiles against Babylon and later tac-nukes against France.
During the 2-man Golden Age, I had flipped to Slavery/Theocracy for military purposes. At the end of that GA, I had to flip back to peacetime civics. Free Religion is definitely needed for the happy and research; Org Rel now pales next to factory hammers. Emancipation too to avoid the unhappy. Government is a tough call, I want Rep for Sushi research, but must pass on it -- need hammers from USuff to stop France, not research. Legal is also a tough call, but ultimately I want the security blanket of Nationalism (and need its barracks happy), and there are still some techs to steal with the EPs (France researched Rocketry and Roosevelt has Refrigeration.)
And finally here's another reason to stay in Nationhood. I was able to sneak a spy through to a French island city in the east -- and bonk him out of Free Speech. That will buy some time against his culture win!
Later, with Cristo Redentor in hand, I moved to Representation / Free Speech for a solid research push to Robotics. Yes, for once I can afford a bit of time off the straightest path to space. And I would quite like Mech drafting available when I do start war with France.
And I pulled another nasty Cristo trick: revolt into Slavery for one turn, in order to spy-bonk France into it. Emancipation anger and anarchy to switch back means slowing culture.
Speaking of spies, I realized this move about 200 turns late: Bonk Saladin into Free Religion, so that he no longer has a state religion and that will halve the revolt odds in my captured border cities.
Hey, Mount Rushmore could be useful.
As I started research on Robotics, it actually became apparent that I could win this race bloodlessly after all. Now in 1883 AD, France's city is at 60k culture, and thanks to my spy and civics harassment is only making 400/turn. 37 turns to victory for France, and I can finish the spaceship sooner than that, though it wouldn't quite arrive first.
Now with the Three Gorges Dam complete at home and Mining Inc fully spread, my cities had loads of production. I assigned about four of them to dedicated spy production and one to transports. Starting in 1884 AD, I made sure Rheims would never go Legendary by hitting it with a spy revolt every turn. Literally every turn. Thirty straight turns of spy revolts. I stacked up as many as 30 spies in the city at a time.
Those spy revolts weren't without difficulty, though. At least I was smart enough to sabotage the Security Bureau first before all the rest of the activity.
But I am also well prepared to crush the city the direct way if necessary.
The spaceship endgame got on track late but proceeded as normal. Apollo completed pretty early after I'd hurried to Rocketry for nukes, then I did Robotics for the security blanket of drafted mechs, but other than that things were normal. Superconductors - Genetics - up to Fusion - Ecology as the last tech. Unusually, I even launched with both engines - that was possible because the Ironworks actually wasn't in my highest hammer city - that was London with the Heroic Epic. So London and Reading built the twin Engines, aided by the 3-man Golden Age and a flip to Uni Suffrage.
What? Nippur? I didn't build any parts there. This place doesn't have the production for a Matchbox spaceship. SS parts can be sabotaged from anywhere? What the friggin kind of logic is that? Anyway, this sounds like a great time to run Counterespionage missions, and there was no more of that nonsense.
A Great Artist by France worried me, but I don't know what became of it. It did not pop a Great Work in Rheims, which was now France's only chance to beat me.
Babylon tried to throw a wrench in the works by declaring war on me again. (This is my eighth hot war in a game that said "we can mostly ignore what the AIs are doing.") He recaptured his homeland cities, but could not pose a threat against draftable mechs. I lost Cristo Redentor, but had the 3-man Golden Age coming to flip to Nationhood.
I still had sufficient numbers for naval superiority, but they were out west menacing France, and had to be recalled to kill Babylon ships closer to home. So I had to trust France's city to my spies - and couldn't supply any more for a while until I took out Babylon's navy.
But the war ended very quickly when I had the UN vote to Stop The War against Hammurabi. :) Stupidly, but entirely predictably, Hammurabi even voted for it himself. The AI will almost always vote to stop a war against itself unless it's winning really big.
Paris reached double legendary. And Rheims would have 90k by now if not for my spies.
And thus ends the longest, biggest, most epic game of Civ 4 I've played yet. Yes, it was even longer than Epic 24, at 515 turns. Slightly less time by the timer at 46 hours, but more actual face time, rather than clicking idly through turns.
Space Race Victory in 1926 AD.
Score graph, showing how I trailed quite late into the game, eventual ascent to the top, and a big dent where Babylon swiped those coastal cities.
Power graph, showing Babylon going nuts until he messed with the wrong guy, and France trying to run away too. My spike at the end was building mechs just-in-case after the spaceship launch.
Some closing thoughts follow.
As I mentioned before in the wake of the Japanese stagnation game, be careful how many variants we stack up at the same time. This game had no fewer than four toughness factors. Besides the stated variant of no diplomacy, we had Immortal difficulty, barren land (just three weak happy resources in our natural territory), and a hidden but very real variant of beating an AI culture win with our own space win.
It's easy to think "oh, the players can handle X", where X is Immortal difficulty, passive diplomacy restrictions, or beating AI culture to space. Each of those is true. Each of those is no big deal. Even any two of them makes a winnable challenge for an extreme adventure. But doing all of them at the same time, on bad terrain, is a heck of a mountain.
But this scenario got right the things that the Japanese stagnation scenario got wrong. Breathing room is key to a stacked variant game. We had plenty of buffer zone and no military danger from a Pleased Saladin. And the civ choice fit both thematically and mechanically, with Financial and UU and UB right when we needed it. The diplomacy variant was challenging but very good variant material, taking away one of the player's biggest crutches. My difficulties were my own fault: I blew the start with a misguided espionage economy attempt, blew the early game with that silly pointless Civ 3 AI style war, and blew the midgame in stupidly attacking into Protective rifles.
My only knock on the scenario design was the requirement of space victory ahead of AI culture. I can understand "let's skip the cheese culture victory", but this is a serious variant requirement just kind of randomly hidden in there, almost accidentally. The BTS AI is quite competent at going for culture. To beat that requires amassing 300,000 research beakers ahead of 150,000 AI culture - that's double the AI economy, on Immortal, without the benefit of trading, on weak land for cottages. I stopped it with spies, which is really a gap in the AI's awareness (it should run counterespionage and close borders to stop the boats bringing spies, and probably declare hot war.) I'm not quite convinced Sullla really thought through the sort of difficulty factor there. And it throws up serious variance between players based on how the religions fall and whether any AI decides to try culture. But we did have the tools to deal with it all - that's where the scenario did succeed - and I'm glad I saw this one through.