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Gods & Kings ICS

I had reached out from maximum ICS density for a moment to plant this city over here. Great clump of resources including a new luxury, and I wanted port access to the inland sea.

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And naturally my neighbor Genghis punished me, both for the aggressive plant and (in my mind) for compromising on my ICS intentions. I bought a pikeman, then realized I should have bought a ranged unit, which could have attacked from outside the city while I buy another unit inside. I also bought walls, making a total of 800 gold invested in this city. Unfortunately that was too many enemy units, and the city did fall to the Mongol hordes.

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However, my purchases did hold out long enough to kill five Mongolian units, which triggered quests from not one but two city-states that Genghis had gone belligerent. Both quests were BIG, 90 influence. So it's like I spent that 800 gold on CS influence, and at a better rate than normal. An acceptable outcome.

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Time for the traditional 1 AD overview. This was definitely considerably ahead of my other ICS game. 9 cities here to 7 previously, 63 population to 35, 76 beakers to 49, and over double on the scoreboard.

Mongolia in the west was no further danger. Florence was allied with me, and had ample units to fight off any Mongolians that might try to make it to my territory. Although the war blocked westward expansion for the moment, and northward we had already solidified borders with Spain. But there was room south of Memphis and Florence for more cities so I went there next.

In fact, the limiting factor on expansion more so than happy was worker labor. I had to force myself to stop building junk like watermills and monuments. Completely out of the question were markets and libraries and aqueducts. Just push out more workers workers workers and occasional settlers. Population is the only thing that matters. With Civil Service coming shortly and so much riverside land, each population point in these new cities would add 2-0-3 net productivity for a low investment of only 15 to 60 food, a much more efficient payoff than any investment of hammers. (The 3 is a combination of the one beaker, one gold on the tile, and one gold from trade route.)

With high population thanks to the riverside land but low hammer production, I naturally found myself wishing I could whip these workers and granaries. And that line of thought perhaps hit on the sour taste of Civ 5 for many folks. Stiff. The gameplay is stiff. Civ 4 is all about bending the game to your will. You can whip whatever, go mega specialists if you want, grow into anger if you want, overexpand into economic collapse, make a deeply beelined slingshot with Liberalism, exploit multiplicative math with Bureaucracy/Oxford or Globe Theater/Kremlin. Civ 4 can be molded in any direction you like.

Civ 5 is stiff, inflexible, unbendable. Civ 5 has you follow only the one same predestined path. Cities always grow at the same rate, add social policies on about the same schedule, create and fill the same number of specialist slots, produce Great People at about the same intervals. Almost no matter what you do. The religion system in particular is thoroughly linear with the same steps every time. Where Civ 4 is about choosing and exploring your own path, Civ 5 is about one standard experience, and all you can do is optimize along the way.

And yet... I don't mind that and still enjoy Civ 5 anyway. You might as well get irked at Super Mario Bros for always putting the goombas in the same place. It's just how the game is. It's okay to walk down predictable paths, finding enjoyment in the journey and in the small room for micro-optimizations as you go. Not every game has to be a wide open sandbox. Linearity has a place in game design too. It's like watching a favorite movie or sitcom, where you know in broad strokes what will happen, but taking note in small jokes and lines you didn't notice before.

I had headed to Chivalry, and soon upgraded my two horsemen with cash. Like lots of ancillary mechanics in Civ 5, upgrading is more efficient than its root mechanic, of just building units. Upgrades are pretty cheap - this one is 100 gold for 45 hammers worth of upgrade, a better ratio than any purchase. And for the game to work under 1UPT design, upgrades need to be attractive, since otherwise the obsolete units would be worthless when they can't be stacked in with a contemporary army. But this introduces a gamey loophole. The best path is to deliberately build nearly-obsolete units in order to get in on the efficiency of upgrading. Another sour taste brought on by the game providing just a single path to follow.

In the religion department, I was expecting that ICS would play very well with the religious pressure mechanic. Every religious city pressures every other city up to 10 tiles away, so I expected my infinite cities to form an overlapping network of mutual pressure.

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However, it would take a missionary to get started. One city applies negligible pressure, but three cities apply triple, now 18 pressure there in Elephantine. It takes about 100 accumulated pressure to convert one follower, so this should add followers in 5-6 turn intervals and reach a majority in 30-40 or so.

Except that missionary was a mistake. I needed to go directly for the enhancement Great Prophet instead. In the interim, the Celts and Iroquois both sneaked in to swipe the two good enhancer beliefs that improve passive pressure, Itinerant Preachers and Religious Texts. Yuck.

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So I had to end up with Holy Order, the discount on missionaries, instead of relying on passive spread. This at least would synergize well with the Great Mosque. And 30% cheaper is really 43% better, since now you get 100/70 = 1.43 times as much missionary for your faith. (It is strictly better for domestic spread than Missionary Zeal, +25% missionary strength.)

The second follower belief was a tough call. I had missed out on the best after Pagodas, which would have been Religious Center (+2 happy from temples). Cathedrals would be nice, but I'd already be committing gobs of faith on missionaries and pagodas. Peace Gardens (Gardens give +2 happy) was a consideration, but it felt really weird the thought of building Gardens that would never deliver their real function just for the happy instead. Finally I went with Religious Community (+1% production per follower up to +15%), on the thought that the best way to get more happy would be to simply build it.

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Or maybe religion can spread passively... only to small cities. This is an unintuitive mechanic and took a while to grok. Because pressure produces followers linearly, small cities convert a lot faster than big ones. Then as the small city grows, every added citizen follows the majority religion for free, basically experiencing virtual pressure on itself at a much faster rate than real pressure. So it's best to keep cities small until they pick up enough passive pressure to convert. Very clunky mechanic.

In the research department, I finally got up to Education. That got three research agreements going, also Angkor Wat, and of course universities. That last was necessary just to get citizens employed! At maximum ICS density, each city gets only 12 land tiles to itself, and those ran out quickly. The universities and workshops were necessary just to have places to put laborers.

In the wonder department, I got beat to Notre Dame thanks to prioritizing other lines of tech instead. I did build the Great Mosque, which just always seems worthwhile, 50% better missionaries, and 6 faith including the free mosque. And Angkor Wat, which also satisfied two CS quests for 40 influence each. And clocked Forbidden Palace with my first Engineer.

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Spain not unexpectedly declared war, and I'd begun preparing when Napoleon tattled to me. She actually had enough muscle there to capture Hieraconpolis, but I got it back pretty quickly. Spain made peace without too much trouble. I didn't want to go conquering them. The border was stable, Spain was strong and in the era with both their UUs, and also I still had Mongolia to deal with.

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But that distracted me enough to let Mongolia swipe a foolishly overextended city on my other flank. This was my first game on Immortal difficulty, and I was not prepared for the vast swarms of units the AIs can and will assemble. This makes three cities lost this game, an embarrassingly high number.

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Anyway, here's another look as I finally turned the tide with trebuchets and crossbows, reclaiming this frontier. I also conquered Lhasa and just kept it for myself, not really needing any religious CS faith. So for my wannabe ICS game, the limiting factor on expansion turned out to be not happiness, but military control over territory! And browsing around on the CFC strategy forum, it seems that this is common indeed up on Immortal difficulty. I'm not sure I like this.

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And another while later I reached the Mongol capital and core, now with cannons. Finally I could put this nastiness to rest and get on with ICSing. (You can see that I've already been dropping my own cities in the vacant wake behind the front trenches.)

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