I expanded Sid's Sushi as fast as possible, literally against the constraints of the game engine. You are limited to 5 executives and build orders at a time, and each executive takes a turn to load on a boat and can't spread until the next turn. Five cities every two turns is the theoretical limit of corporate expansion on islands, aside from the occasional instance of moving across a single land mass. This means dry-whipping executives, eating the empty box penalty. And the instant any city got the corporation, either it or a previous city immediately dry-whipped another executive. I kept alert for chances to use overflow or chops to 1-turn an exec without a whip when possible.
I was also expanding settlers to island cities, staying far enough ahead that the Sushi executives would always have ready targets. I'd whipped about 20 settlers total from my Globe Theater city which were the first wave. Then once Sushi expanded a little ways, any city that wasn't whipping an executive was usually slow-building a settler. (Not slow at all with 30 food from Sushi, more like 6 turns per settler, and that's marathon so two turns on normal speed.)
All this happened on galleys, without galleons. Astronomy had to be avoided forever: an expired Colossus would cost over 1000 income! Remember the Colossus is TWO gold on ocean tiles because it enables the Financial bonus. Fortunately for my sanity, caravels can carry executives! Critical to move them faster and directly across ocean. I got a laugh out of that one - corporate executives zipping around in private high-speed yachts while the proletariat used those clunky slow coastbound galleys.
Anyway, the next urgent goal was of course the Kremlin. The Kremlin would do amazing things. It wasn't just the increased yield; it was the ability to manipulate that yield to complete more items by overflow without incurring additional whip anger. The usual path was for each Sushi-inflated city to grow to size 4, where it whipped a granary with the Kremlin-overflow completing the Organized lighthouse for free. Then it regrew to size 4, whipped the Organized courthouse, and overflowed to a police Immortal for free. (I avoided Horseback Riding to keep cheap police Immortals available.)
In graphical form, treating the lighthouse and courthouse as halved cost by Organized:(SVG file, click for PNG version)
Organized Religion made the math even better. I couldn't always get my religion to every city promptly with the limit of three missionaries, but it was very helpful when possible. Org Rel works multiplicatively with the Kremlin, giving 90 x 1.5 x 1.25 = 168 hammers per whip. Such a city could whip the granary right at size 2, with only 12 hammers in the box. Then let the city grow to 4, whip the courthouse, and the overflow would entirely complete the lighthouse too. Finally, a whipped executive would produce 270/200 hammers, and the overflow could build the police immortal.
I generally whipped only these buildings and executives, though. Too much whipping sets population and score back too far - remember score is my whole goal here. After the three critical buildings, let the cities grow.
What do the economics of this crazy thing look like? Strangely and surprisingly, my income glued itself to +600 per turn, when at 0% in Golden Age. This stayed true for an astoundingly long time, making 600 gold for every one of 48 straight turns of Golden Age. Cities grew and added coast tiles (5 commerce with Financial, Colossus, and Golden Age) at precisely the same rate that corporate costs increased by spreading to more cities and resources.
I saved that gold, and occasionally ran the slider to 100% for a few turns to burn it into a tech, eventually inching my way up to Railroad. I continued research to Democracy at 0% (Representation beakers), which was the last tech I would need. No need for Mil Trad or Mil Science or Rifling or Assembly Line (can't take the health hit from factories), and definitely no Astronomy. Combustion for transports and oil wells might be nice, but expiring whales would be a headache. After Railroad, my science slider locked at 0% for the rest of the game.
Here's a good time for an overview, when my score has just pushed above my Rome game. But there's way more to come. Sid's Sushi was producing 40 food, so each and every one of those cities will hit size 20 and most 30 depending on how many marine tiles are available.
As the screen shows, this Golden Age is about to run out (this was the 3-man GA consecutively after the Taj Mahal GA.) I got a bad break when at low odds a Great Merchant spawned, which was a duplicate type unusable for the 4-man GA. That sent me into Pacifism for twenty turns to cycle around to another GP.
Yikes, -700 income at 0%. This is the worst crunch point for the corporate game, with all the cities paying big bucks for Sushi, but they haven't yet grown up to build markets and work all the coastal tiles and merchants. And that didn't improve quickly. At least that surplus GM could run a trade mission to keep me solvent for a while. (If this duplicate GP had been a scientist or spy, I would have been in serious trouble.)
What the island cities needed were markets and grocers (apothecaries). All three functions of these buildings were critical: the cash boost, happy or health, and the merchant specialist slots. Except that hammerless island cities couldn't build any of these. Even whipping wasn't a good idea with anger already stacked high, plus it also directly sets me back on score (the whole goal of this crazy exercise!) And obviously I had no money to cash rush. This problem was what sank a couple previous attempts. How could I build this stuff without whipping into the ground?
There was indeed a glorious answer. Mining Inc! 35 corporate hammers were just the ticket to build markets and grocers in whip-weary cities. (I had quite a collection of resources for this corporation, including somehow 10 coals worldwide.) In mature cities, those hammers could go straight into Wealth. Mining Inc even helps build its own executives. And Mining Inc would really be the only way for island cities to build anything, once I had to leave Slavery for Caste System in order for all the extra population to be bankruptcy-avoiding merchants. Whipping Mining Inc executives did hurt a bit, but one whip for 3 population beats two whips for 6-8 population to get a market and grocer built.
Strangely and disconcertingly, I had little intuitive sense for where my economy was going. It bounced up and down on its own. Some turns I'd gain 400 income from a bunch of courthouses and markets completing. Some turns I'd drop 400 with four new Sushi branches and no counterbalancing factor. All this noise made it very hard to see the long-term signal trend, but eventually it became clear that it was negative. Ultimately I had to impose an undesirable solution: turn off some Sushi resources by trades and self-pillaging. Each such resource saved over 100 gpt!, although cost 70 food nationwide.
By the way, it's not true that Sushi is always profitable. The corporate maintenance formula takes city size times the number of resources. Even though each resource can only feed one citizen, everybody pays for it. In other words, the 30th citizen in a city costs a lot more than the third. And don't forget it takes 4 Sushi resources to grow and support just one citizen, or even 6 beyond the health cap. So population on the high end actually cost about 10 gold each, including the inflation modifier.(SVG file, click for PNG version)
When you're going for space or a modern military tech win, it does hold true that a Sushi-created scientist is always productive. He converts that 10 maintenance into 12 beakers, with Representation and +100% multipliers. But that works only for research because of Rep, not for cash. Pushing Sushi to the absolute max would be correct for space but incorrect for cash economy. But remember, my goal here was not economy. My goal was maximum population, which does indeed mean paying whatever the corporate taxman demands.
Finally the 4-man Golden Age arrived and saved me. First we needed a nearly full set of civics changes again. (Changing civics outside of GA was completely out of the question. 14 turns of anarchy for one civic!)
- Universal Suffrage to cash rush executives and granaries instead of whipping. I continued to whip courthouses and overflow onto lighthouses, since cash rushing ignores the Organized doubler for both of those. No need for Representation research now.
- Nationhood. Zero civic upkeep saved more than Bureaucracy could make, but this choice was actually mostly for the barracks happy. In fact a Nationhood barracks is the best happy/hammer deal in the game.
- Caste System, a bit later after all the whipped courthouses were done. Although it took a half hour to scroll through cities and assign over 2,000 merchant specialists!
- Org Rel which works great with Mining Inc hammers. Finally didn't need Pacifism.
All this (and the GA bonus itself) rocketed my income through the roof again. Fully grown cities with cash multiplier buildings and all the surplus population as merchant specialists. And Sushi was now established in every city, so we no longer added 150/turn in new corporate branch maintenance. Finally I could bring all my seafood back online, replacing earlier self-pillaged fishing nets.
But all of this is just a means to the end: maximum population. On the top end, I didn't really care if population was angry. They still count for score. Just make sure all the food-producing tiles were worked, even bare tundra. The market and barracks were enough to cover that, no need for forges or temples or bad happy options like colosseums or the slider. I did care about the health cap, since fixing health problems does create more population and more score. So the cities did build grocers, harbors, aqueducts, and even hospitals. (Supermarkets would be super nice, but that tech path is blocked by the Colossus-killing Astronomy.)
With Sushi fully expanded and no more whipping, now my score accelerated to terminal velocity. My Persia exploded by as much as 60 population and 60,000 score each turn.
A minor headache came when Gandhi made it to Democracy. Emancipation anger was untenable, but neither could I adopt it myself, needing all the Caste merchants. Spies know how to deal with that. And I went even one better, pre-emptively changing his civics every 5 turns whenever possible to temporarily lock him out of switching to Emancipation.
By the way, Gandhi reaching Democracy was my own fault. Delhi had the Buddhist shrine, collecting over 300 income from my efforts to spread it. And India was also making some pretty ridiculous trade route income from me! Counting Bureaucracy, this city is making 101 commerce from trade routes alone! Well, that means it's a spectacular target for a surplus Great Merchant!
And when that last Golden Age ended, where was my economy?
Freaky. Just about at par, in kind of a crazy coincidence, 25,000 gold in and 25,000 gold out every turn. I could make up that 300 deficit with Wealth once the cash on hand ran out.
But ever more markets and grocers continued to complete, and even harbors added a solid 10 commerce (15 gold), and soon I found myself profiting over 1000 again.
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