The cultural win was about 100 turns away if I shut off research now, but I decided that couldn't happen just yet. Greece didn't have either Combustion or Sci Method yet, but if he did get both, he'd chew through my navy like Mike Tyson. But if I could keep up an impenetrable wall of destroyers, I'd never need to worry about actual invasions of my territory. Usually for a cultural win I like the security of Infantry, but that was totally unnecessary here. If I keep the waters blockaded, I need fear no land force.
Readers of the RB forums may have seen my references to playing the card game Magic the Gathering between my time with Civ 3 and Civ 4. There's an analogy to be drawn from Magic to this game here. In Magic, there's a deck construction archetype with which one seeks not to directly win the game, but rather to prevent the opponent from ever doing so. You pack your deck with reactive cards to neutralize your opponent's threats. The most extremely controlling decks try to establish a game state where the opponent can _never_ win -- that you'll be guaranteed to be able to draw more counterspells and other "answer" cards than he can possibly draw threats. Not just probably not win, not just probably not win barring a wild streak of luck, but _never_ win. That's what I'm trying to do here. As Sun Tzu says, seek to destroy not the enemy itself, but the enemy's ability to wage war.
And that requires destroyers. Am I missing something on the tech tree, or is there nothing at all between ironclads and destroyers, the latter of which annihilates the former? Something like four or five 'clads would be required to kill a single destroyer. Unlike pretty much every other step of military development, there's *no* chance here for a technologically inferior opponent to remain competitive through superior numbers.
Combustion and Sci Meth came in on schedule in about 12 and 6 turns, and then it was time to shut off research and build destroyers. Well, OK, One More Tech (heh): Biology, which would let my cultural cities run better food surpluses and more artists. But is that really the wise choice? Biology would take 12 turns to research, and running the science slider instead of culture would cost in my cultural laggard about ~40 + 350% = 180 culture/turn * 12 turns = 2160 culture. I have a hard time seeing any number of artist specialists paying back that much, so forget it.
It's also time to make some civic swaps. With research off and the happy slider all the way up, Representation is now useless. Universal Suffrage seems the best option of the remaining government choices, though really none are relevant to endgame cultural production. Slavery has also outlived its usefulness, and we go to Caste System for the extra artists (we can always swap back instantly if we need an emergency rush somewhere, though Universal Suffrage fills that role too.) Finally, we go to Pacifism in hopes of getting an extra Great Artist or two before the end of the game. Yes, Pacifism in what's now an Always War game. Who would ever try that. Pacifism really didn't cost any more than Org Rel, thanks to swapping the high civic upkeep for none. Apparently the difference between "low" and "none" upkeep civics is greater than the difference between "low" and "high".
Presently, Greece calls me regarding peace for about the tenth time. Every previous time he's demanded Corinth for peace, but he's finally changed his tune.
I say him nay. No sense risking him sneak attacking me twenty turns hence. It seems the AI is competent at arranging naval sneak attacks, but it can't assemble a decent naval invasion if it's already at war. Each boat it produces seems to immediately suicide against one of my vessels, rather than waiting until it can assemble enough force to actually take something.
That screenshot also shows I was keeping 500 gold in my back pocket in case of an emergency rush somewhere. I could spend that gold in only a couple turns of 100% culture slider, so it didn't cost me anything on the actual cultural victory.
Then this surprises me; good thing I did go for those destroyers!
An extremely useless Great Prophet popped next. He could lightbulb Theology, or construct a religious shrine in my overcultured capital, or settle for some useless cash. I held onto him in case I wanted a Golden Age.
Then another Prophet spawned in Memphis which had something like 90% Artist odds. Then my capital spawned ANOTHER damn Prophet despite 60% Artist odds. A single Great Artist would knock about six turns off the cultural win, and a second in another city would be worth about three more. Truly, it would suck to finish behind another competitor by less than five turns thanks to this balky RNG.
Anyway, all those prophets merged into my last cultural city for the cash and small boost of hammers->culture. And since the capital now wouldn't achieve any more GPs before the end, I reconfigured its specialists as Merchants (still in Caste System) to pay for bumping the culture slider up to 100%. I belatedly realized I should've made one last swap away from Pacifism to Free Religion after the last Leader, so that all the other religions in each city could contribute a few pennies of culture.
Thebes went Legendary in 1882 AD, followed by both Memphis and Heliopolis together in 1903 AD. I did finally get a Great Artist out of Heliopolis just before the end, but he was so late that his Great Work saved only two turns.
Yes, Thebes only ever bothered to build three religious cathedrals. It had that huge a cultural baseline production thanks to all those ancient wonders. It had had about five towns, but I paved over them with farms in the endgame to support more artist specialists in a (vain) bid for Great Artists.
Heliopolis had the Hermitage and two wonders, so it did well enough for itself.
Memphis only had one wonder, and one early settled great artist (the one from Music.) It got the bulk of its endgame culture from the cultural slider, with the eight towns in the city radius.
Cultural Victory in 1904 AD.
Here's the GNP, and you can see the stagnation I got myself into after conquering chunks of Greece. I can't explain the big drop in Greece's GNP around 1750 AD, though. I didn't do any conquering around that time, and my naval starvation sieges couldn't have knocked out half his economy. Strange.
And the demographics show a largely even balance between our two civs, except for his soldiers and my population. Alex had dozens of riflemen and cavalry built up on his home island, but could never clear the way for a boat to transport them anywhere. The population is the usual discrepancy between the human and AI, plus the fact I had more health and happiness sources including the religions.
Finally, click here for a large spliced shot of the tech tree screen, showing exactly where I stopped research.
So there we are with my first win on Immortal difficulty. I think that date is pretty good for this game, although I definitely did do a few things wrong. Needing to conquer my own continent meant my cultural cities spent around 25 turns building military instead of focusing on culture. I should've expanded faster to my own continent, relying on the ivory for elephants for military protection rather than sending my fourth city to the copper island, which would also allowed me to use a strong city in the north as one of the goal cities, rather than Heliopolis which actually had deceptively weak, awkward terrain. Plus I got stupid in ignoring the Sistine Chapel to save a measly 900 beakers of research -- one turn's worth in the end game. Finally, I should've taken the time to conquer a Greek city with Christianity and/or Islam to build another set of cathedrals.
Well, one shower of flowers and affection please, and onward to more challenges.