After my last several games ended with scores in the 80k - 95k range, I started itching to get a six-figure finish. Tonight, I reloaded my game in-progress, expecting to run a few turns and get nowhere, when I wound up achieving a quick and unexpected victory.
I started the game, picking a leader, ahead of anything else: Saladin of Arabia. He was a silly choice, really, since I tend to ignore the religious tech path in the early game and almost always skip neglect his unique unit. The only thing I really stood to benefit from was his unique building, the Madrassa, a library that produces extra culture and allows you to assign priests to a city, in addition to the normal scientists. Roight, so player-leader mismatch....
The map I chose was a large, Earth-like tectonics map, packed to the gills with fifteen nations (counting my own). My starting location highlighted a common complaint about the tectonics map script, that is the endless swaths of plains tiles, which aren't capable of supporting a growing city. I chose not to regenerate the map, though, enticed by a pair of gold hills and a couple tiles of cattle to sustain my capitol (as well as some nearby freshwater lakes, which I could at least use to irrigate some late-game, Biology-enhanced farms). My other early cities were less-than-impressive, set up almost solely to connect necessary resources (horses, marble, and eventually iron). Additionally, I had to place some really
questionable cities, just to ensure I'd have access to the sea, as all of my first three cities were totally landlocked.
I would later find out that I started on the largest continent, with eleven other civilizations, including some batty warmongers like Ragnar, and frighteningly effective diplomats like freakin' Ghandi. Normally, my luck is such that I start next to the former and can't deal with the latter, until he already has a thousand allies and a million defense pacts. Not this time, though. This time, I got to acquaint Ghandi with Stompy Stompy McAxeman right from the off. Before the gaunt fellow could make friends with everyone, his empire had been chopped in half, followed very shortly by him. That set the tone for the early game, with me crushing Egypt, my western neighbor, followed by Portugal and Rome to the east. Bismark had settled Germany, northeast of my capitol, but I wound up making a rather fateful decision not to attack him, while driving east.
As I made my push to the eastern shore, I finished researching Optics and began launching caravels from my few port cities in the south to explore the seas. Hannibal of Carthage had a nice little subcontinent all to himself, while the Japanese and Native American empires had a sort of perpetual war going for control of their archipelago.
By this point, the diplomatic picture was starting to come into focus, and oddly enough, aside from the three new players on the scene, everybody liked me. Two of my ten remaining rivals voluntarily vassalized their nations to my empire. Normally, I have to be grinding my bootheel into someone's face to acheive that effect, but apparently splitting Ghandi's skull with an axe makes me a nice guy. This was largely due to the fact that the remaining nations on my continent were all Bhuddist, and the leaders of those nations placed disproportionately high value on shared religion over other diplomatic factors. In light of this, I built the Apostolic Palace, in hopes of being able to launch some mid- and late-game crusades against the island nations or at least halt trade among those civilizations I viewed as threatening.
Closer examination of the situation led me to think bigger, though. Hannibal's island was a godless place, just waiting to receive an army of missionaries. I made sure that Bhuddism was the first religion to take hold there, making Carthage subject to Apostolic Palace rulings. The Native Americans willingly opened their borders to me, despite our spiritual differences, creating an opportunity for my missionaries to quickly resolve those differences. Veterans of Civilization IV may know what I'm up to and what my biggest hurdle is. When every nation has at least one city that shares the Apostolic Palace's religion, whoever is voted as the Palace leader can call a vote for a world leader (i.e. a diplomatic victor). Standing in my way was Tokugawa, whose nation was one-hundred percent Hindu and equally closed to outsiders.
My options were pretty limited, since Tokugawa doesn't socialize much with those who aren't supporting him in a war or who don't share his state religion. Fortunately for me, the balance of his war against the Native Americans shifted for the worse, as they made a concerted push towards Kyoto. Tokugawa requested my aid. Stabbing Sitting Bull in the back gave me just enough of a diplomatic boost with Tokugawa to get him to open his borders to a stream of Bhuddist missionaries. The war went on long enough that I was able to get Tokugawa to switch state religions, thereby solidifying the otherwise temporary diplomatic gains brought by going to war on his behalf.
I was actually rather worried, at this point. The largest empire, next to my own, was the Netherlands, and while I was busy spreading the good word, they had gotten big
. Though they hadn't outright destroyed any other nations, the Netherlands had captured several cities in wars against Russia and the Vikings, and vassalized both nations. Moreover, the Dutch leader had done this without causing much offense among third parties, leaving them in a very strong position, for a world leader election. Nevertheless, in 1185AD, I called for the vote and was shown a ballot, with a very curious option on it....
• Vote for BlueFlames
• Vote for Bismark
It hadn't occured to me that the Dutch empire wasn't terribly spiritual and hadn't gone to the effort of making missionaries and spreading their state religion to all of their cities. The Germans had been more diligent about this task and as a result, had more authority in the Apostolic Palace. That meant that the election was between myself and the man with no allies. The lopsided results were confirmed in 1190.
Early victory, high score
.(A keen eye will note why I didn't have much trouble in my war with Sitting Bull. When all you've got are caravels, it's rather difficult to commit anything to an overseas fight.)