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I start by moving the scout northwest, then onto the hut, which pops maps.

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Hey... OK, let's plan. We have Stone, and therefore I'll bet my entire life savings that we haven't got Marble nearby. There's that variant rule that we may not build a wonder without the appropriate production doubler. Sirian wouldn't possibly make a variant rule like that and then render it moot by serving up both Stone and Marble. So let's consider what that means: No Oracle, no Great Library, no Parthenon, Sistine Chapel, Hagia Sophia, Versailles, or Taj Mahal.

And so, here in 4000 BC, the question is to Pyramid or not to Pyramid? That Stone is an engraved invitation reading "Build Pyramids Here", but I also know Sirian's fondness for red herrings.

The strength of the Pyramids is only partially in unlocking Representation; the wonder also provides an early Great Engineer or two for a second free wonder. What wonders could be engineered? The Great Lighthouse (not spectacular with no foreign trade routes), possibly the Colossus (though we later turned out to lack copper), Hanging Gardens (very cheap anyway with Stone), Notre Dame (nice, but I don't expect to care about researching Music), Spiral Minaret (pretty good, but late and not worth the tech).

I toyed with the idea of manipulating the first Engineer into lightbulbing Feudalism, but decided against it. This would require blocking the Metal Casting - Machinery line by avoiding Bronze Working or Pottery, but those techs are both too important to skip.

Well, ultimately, I decided that the Pyramids were too good to skip. The science from Representation will be marginal for some time, but the +2 happiness is big -- think of it as a double Notre Dame for the first five core cities. I'll find something useful to do with the Engineers. If there's anything red about this herring, it's the fact that the Stone area makes for a fairly lousy city location, with no food bonuses in sight and no farmable land until Civil Service. But a mediocre fishing village is better than no fishing village, so let's do it.

So now it's time to decide on our starting builds. The question is whether we're alone on our continent? On an Archipelago map, I'm going to bet so; the clincher being that Sirian set our starting build to a Worker. I'll go with that.

As for research, Sirian has set it to Animal Husbandry, but there's a better choice: Agriculture instead. When improved, that grassland rice tile actually provides more food (4) than the plains cow (3). Yes, we do want Horses soon, but I'm confident there's plenty on the starting island based on the scenario premise, so there's no rush.

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By 3730 BC, my scout had scouted out all of our little island. Yes, we're definitely alone. A few years later, I planned out my dotmap:

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Since Bureaucracy is forbidden by variant rule, this presents the unusual opportunity to use an off-capital city as my primary economic center. "Commerce City" there has the river, spices, gems, dyes, and more cottageable terrain than the actual capital. This city will receive the first Academy and any settled super-specialists. "Hammer City" is the future Heroic Epic location, with four hills and several forests, and coastal access because the Heroic Epic works to build boats too. The rest of the city signs claim the rest of the terrain and resources. "Late Filler City" would never actually get built.

I allowed Karakorum to grow to size 4 before building settlers, because there were two mineable hills in range. Mineable hills contribute twice as much incremental productivity towards settlers as your usual forested grassland or plains tiles, so it was worth it to let the city grow until it could work them all.

So my starting build order was this: Worker - Barracks - Warrior - Settler (started at size 4) - Worker - Settler - Worker - Granary (would have started Pyramids now if not for the variant rule requiring the Stone hookup) - Pyramids.

Here's a shot of Karakorum about to put out the settler for City Three, which would be the Stone city. Note that I've adjusted the position of Stone City from the previous shot; the Stone hookup can't wait for a border expansion.

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My starting research order was this: Agriculture - Animal H - Mining - Bronze - Pottery - Mysticism - Masonry - Iron Working. Mining was needed to mine the hills, of course, then Bronze Working for all the usual stuff. Masonry was needed for the Stone and Pyramids of course, and then Iron Working was ordered up because it would speed the Pyramids construction by allowing improvement of the jungle gems to raise the happy cap.

I began the Pyramids in 1210 BC. Iron Working finished in 925 BC and we DO have Iron -- right at Karakorum where the hammers will even help with the Pyramids! Since this was an Always War game and we were getting tired of not having any enemies yet, we declared war on the jungle instead. And I built a Chariot to pair with each worker... just kidding.

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The Pyramids finished in 730 BC (500 years, wow that was fast), and I went right to Representation. Now it's time to beeline Calendar so that we can hook up the two Plantation resources. While researching that beeline, I prepped the resources ahead of time by clearing the jungle and laying road.

After the Pyramids, my capital did the library next while growing up to the Representation-boosted happy cap, then finally started putting out more settlers. Here's an overview shot from shortly after the calendar change, with all my core cities now founded.

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By the icons, you can see that Beshbalik has already topped Karakorum in cash and beaker production. Karakorum is going for the Hanging Gardens, because that wonder is simply a no-brainer to build with Stone. The wonder literally pays back more hammers than it costs to build just by providing whipping fodder, and the health is just gravy. Some more Engineer GPP might be nice, too.

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