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Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Civilization 5 Arabia Campaign AAR

Post 1 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-13 05:00:10 UTC

So I decided to give Civilization 5 another try, on King difficulty level as Arabia.
• Pangea Plus is a horrible map generator - it puts all civilizations on one continent (what I wanted, didn't feel like exploring oceans), and every single city state gets its own separate tiny island. So basically if you don't start near the coast, you won't meet city states for 200+ turns, and that means much less diplomacy, no missions etc. I picked "Pangea Plus" because it had "Plus" in the title, what I really wanted was regular "Pangea".
• I restarted like 20 times before I got desert start. Not because it's any easier (deserts normally suck), but I really wanted to see what was the big deal with Desert Folklore + Petra. Arabia is supposed to have desert bias - didn't seem like it. Some of the starts had at least some deserts, many were jungle, or coastland, or tundra etc. For most civilization it's fine, but Venice without coast is basically autoloss.
• Even with Raging Barbarians turned off, barbarians seem to be raging a lot harder than on Prince.
• War is hard. I attacked France, had to white peace (I killed their settler at least, that was good). Then England attacked me, lost all their units, sold me York in peace deal (and it's such a shitty city...). Then Arabia attacked me, lost all their units, paid me off with ton of gold. All AI-vs-AI wars ended up with no cities changing hands, and it's been 200 turns already. Seriously underwhelming.
• The only wonder I took was Petra. Perhaps I should try to get some more. I can always conquer a few capitals where the wonders are located instead of trying to race for them. Paris unfortunately is far too well defended by mountain chains to capture it, but Lisboa, London, and Tenochtitlan are soft targets.
• I managed to settle next to 2 natural wonders, and there's 3rd sitting between me and France waiting for it. That was some nice luck, or AI just doesn't prioritize natural wonders much. I'm not sure if I'm doing the right thing - these spots weren't really great other than for the wonder.
• Faith game generated a lot of happiness by purchasing pagodas. It seems like almost everybody got their own religion, but mine seems to be most popular globally. I'm not totally convinced desert start and rushing desert folklore + Petra was really worth it, and if it wouldn't be better to just get a regular start and rush something else useful.
• I'm not sure what kind of victory condition I want. I could conquer a bunch of capitals, but the map is just massive, with 8 civilizations instead of 6 I'm used to play. I can't do city state game since so far I've only seen one, with island really close to the coast.
• One unit per tile fighting against stupid AI is actually more fun when they have 3x as many units as you. On Prince they only had 2x, and it was just too easy.
• My spy sucks. He reported Aztecs are trying to attack England (who was weakest after losing all their units in attack against me), they attacked me instead.
• Cheaty AI doesn't exactly make me happy, but it's possible to adapt to it - for example since AI has science headstart, caravans and spies work to your advantage by leeching their tech, on Prince you couldn't really do it (except I pretty much caught up by turn 200).

Post 2 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-13 18:10:12 UTC

So the campaign continues.

There's a nice trick with reducing warmongering penalty - cities you get in a peace deal don't count. So York and Braga I took without any Agressive Expansion, I mean infamy, I mean warmongering penalty.

You can't take capitals in a peace deal, so if you want domination victory, that's the only way. Story of the game so far:
• French attacked me - I couldn't maneuver enough to take their cities, so I white peaced
• English attacked me - it was pretty weak, and they gave me York for the trouble. It was really shitty in the middle of a jungle, but that turned into massive science bonuses once I built university there.
• Aztecs attacked me - not losing Baghdad was the hardest part of the game.
• I finally got Camel Archers, and they're OP like hell. I attacked Portugal, but didn't have any melee units to finish the deal
• Just one turn before I could take Lisboa and get Braga in a peace deal, Aztecs attack me again in Najran. It was easier than the last time since I had money to quick buy walls, Najran was on hills, and all my units were rushing in a few turns since my other war was getting finished (and 2 units I sent way North to clear Barbarian camp were returning too - that was retrospectively a mistake, and I should have left them in Najran and Kufah).
• I couldn't take any cities from the Aztecs since my happiness was at -17 immediately after peace deal with Portugal, so I just took ton of gold and some sugar from them. Happiness management is the most important skill in the game.
• Aztecs are obviously gathering armies again to strike at me, I want to preempt that, and get Teotihuacan in a peace deal. It has some horses, of which I have shortage, and it's on my way.
• After that I want to take London and Tenochtitlan by force.
• That's still only 4/8 capitals, so very far away from domination victory. Playing with 6 civilizations on one level smaller map was just way easier. Paris and Washington would be a big stretch to take (and both are friendly to me, and give me ton of money from caravals, so I don't even want to fight them anytime soon), and Rio de Janeiro and  Addis Ababa are way too far to even ponder that.
• I'll need to build some ships to find all the city states. So far I've only found two.
• I don't have to go for domination. I have tech lead, so presumably I could go for science victory. Or by just having largest empire I could still go for diplomatic victory. I'm not even sure how cultural victory works. (time victory by high score obviously turned off because it's stupid)
• My religion is comfortably dominant worldwide. Portugal used to be Catholic, now they are almost all Zoroastrian. Aztecs will be forced into it too. French Buddhism never spread anywhere, Americans, Brazilians, and English have no religion, so it just leaves Ethiopians with somewhat successful spread. I guess I could conquer France just for the sake of religious dominance, but I'm not sure what would be the benefit of that. It's hard to get to conquest of France without first settling a city in a path from Damascus to Paris/Lyon - there's one natural wonder there, but it's not very good otherwise.
• By the time my totally overpowered Camel Archers get obsolete, I'll have Artillery, so no cities will ever be safe from me.

Core of my empire and what's left of Portugal

Northern areas and my new targets in Aztec and England

Lands to the East - including Paris I failed to take

Post 3 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-13 23:46:57 UTC

Civilization 5 has much more interesting late game than most strategy games.

I crushed Aztecs - they didn't want to give me city I wanted in a peace deal, so I just conquered it and then their capital in one war. I wonder if different AIs have different levels of willingness to pay to peace out (they were willing to give me a smaller city, but that would be fairly useless). Then I shifted all my troops East, and built a town of Basra on my way to France, just in case I need it - turned out later it had coal, so it wasn't a total waste.

I had very good relations with Americans all the game, unfortunately they settled Chicago blocking my way to York (and in the future London) - I bought all the tiles I could, then set up citadel to steal the rest, so now the whole way is under my control, but that pissed them off to no end.

Same turn, Americans and Brazilians, 2nd and 3rd strongest civilizations, declared war on me simultaneously. That's the kind of stuff that makes end game potentially interesting.

I'm far better prepared for this war than for any of my previous wars, since I was expecting one of them to attack me. Well, they both did instead, but that's fine too. Unfortunately my Camel Archers are getting a bit obsolete now (I could upgrade them to Cavalry, but that's a shitty unit), and Americans spammed their unique unit Minuteman. At least Brazilians sent some really obsolete units instead.

I'm not sure what would be good war goals. Chicago definitely needs to burn - it's an extremely annoying worthless city with no resources and very little land. Philadelphia I'd definitely want, just as New York, and then Washington (they can keep Boston and Atlanta).

I don't really have any reason to fight Brazilians - Belo Horizonte is nothing special, but it can get dyes, horses (a bit late for that now), and would be of some value if I wanted to go against Americans or France. If they'd give me early white peace after losing a bunch of units, I'll definitely take it.

I'd prefer a short war, since for the next one (25-40 turns) I'll be able to put Artillery on the frontline, and some Riflemen to protect it. If the war keeps dragging itself, I can make that the last war of course, but AI in Civ5 is not Empire: Total War kind of suicidal and eagerly peaces out wars it's losing badly.

Once that clears out, I have reasonably clear path towards domination, science, and diplomatic victories.

Also for a while France was gathering its troops next ot my capital - I though they'll attack me with a rush of obsolete units, but they attacked Portugal instead, and got beaten pretty badly. I should probably punish them for such shenanigans and take Paris, but my troops are pretty busy at the moment.

Post 4 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-15 00:28:07 UTC

Civ 5: Arabia campaign

So one thing I didn't notice was that my citadel was in Chicago's firing range, so I couldn't just safely keep my units there. Fortunately AI is far too dumb to pillage it, so it kept getting hit my it. Another thing I didn't notice was that I was way way behind everybody else on soldiers - I'm 5th on ranking, with what to me seemed like the most effective army in the world (and which got subsequently confirmed)

Anyway, AI swamped me with their troops - York's surroundings were totally overran from all direction, and I just had one low level Camel Archer there. Fortunately I was able to quick buy the walls three turn into the war. Chicago was just as full of American soldiers, while Brazilians mostly tried to get to Basra - at least that was really unsuccessful for them due to Brazil being behind on military tech, but they eventually pillaged road to Basra, being massive paint in the ass.

AI was really bad at coordinating attack on York - it was definitely within takable range if it was smarter. I focused first on conquering and burning down Chicago, then just on murdering waves after waves of units AI was throwing at me - especially those that prevented relieving York. I very slowly pushed them back, without too much loses (except my whole fleet of 2 Caravels exploring the world - that was unsalvageable), eventually getting Philadelphia.

Then when I was going for Belo Horizonte and New York, the game decided to be an ass and made roads not work properly. For Brazil that's because they have Great Wall (visually it looks like it applies to city it's in, but it's actually for whole civilization), and it doesn't matter that I invented Dynamite - it only matters that they didn't yet. For Americans, I'm not really sure. Maybe cross-border bridges don't count even when road is on both sides? Movement costs in this game generally don't always work as expected, and game engine sometimes draws roads where there are none and has other visual glitches!

Either way, it was really hard to proceed while Artillery was slowly constructed - fortunately Ethiopia and France ganged up upon Brazil and took one of its isolated cities. It took some really slow manoeuvring to be able to take Belo Horizonte - but that convinced Brazil to peace out by paying me some gold, and that in turn convinced abandoned Americans to surrender New York for peace. New York would be extremely hard to take, except for my first Artillery which was slowly making its way toward the frontlines.

Conquering 3 cities and burning 1 was more than I planned to get in this way, but then it took extremely long time to go that far. This resulted in -11 happiness, which took forever and a bunch of rebellions to get back in order. Maybe I should a bunch of turn with war ongoing before I accepted American peace offer, since New York with full undamaged population was just causing ridiculous amount of unrest.

By the way if rebels ever pillage the road from my capital to the rest of my empire, that will give me instant -220 gold and -20 happiness, and it will be pretty much instant game over with rebels spawning, cities rebelling, and bankruptcy disbanding my units right all over the place. That shows how stupid road mechanics in Civ5 are. It's just one tile pillaged to do that kind of damage, and I have no control over where rebels spawn. And it's not just theoretical - I just barely stopped rebel unit that spawned exactly there from pillaging it - one turn earlier, and it would be the dumbest game over ever.

Now that I have happiness in order, I could go attack London or Washington. A big problem are city states I want to ally for bonuses and votes. Current counts are:

• America - 6 (and they're host of world council for +2 votes)
• me - 3
• Ethiopia - 2 (and they also have Forbidden Palace for +2 votes)
• Brazil 2
• France - 1
• Aztecs - 1
• Portugal - 0
• England - 0

I'm so far behind mostly because I was landlocked, and it took me that long to even meet them. Since I have so few votes, world congress managed to do stupid things like banning Furs (which only I have - I stole them from Portugal via citadel, and now they're useless). At least I managed to make Zoroastrianism world religion, but then everybody except France and Ethiopia follows it (Portugal and Aztecs fully converted by now), so it doesn't give me much benefit (in fact it makes diplomatic victory even harder since I get 2 votes for, then they get 5x2 votes against).

The hardest part is now behind me, so the question is now mostly how to effectively achieve some kind of victory. London and Washington are very takable, and Paris only slightly less so, which would bring me to 6/8 capitals, but the last two would be massive pain. An organized bribery campaign could get me majority of votes in world council, but right now Americans have just ridiculously high relations with most of their allies. Science victory by building spaceship is just too far away, and I still have no idea how culture victory works (I got antiquity sites uncovered, but I can't build archeological digs there).

I guess I could conquer 3 remaining American cities with relative ease, killing my main competitor to diplomatic victory, and then easily win diplomatically. I'm not sure if my happiness will be able to survive that. I don't want to be 1 tile pillage away from losing the game again.

On the other hand Washington has a huge ton of world wonders for the taking. Meanwhile London is really easy, but it doesn't have anything good in it, so it's only worth something if I was going for domination victory, which I'm not sure of.

Post 5 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-16 00:45:16 UTC

Civilization 5: Arabia campaign (King)

I've built my 3rd Factory and that let me adopt an ideology and get 2 free policies in it - taking Order with Socialist Realism and Young Pioneers gave me instant +40 happiness or so, and it was thus time for some war.

London fell in 2 turns to Artillery fire (they are damn overpowered), then I took Nottingham for no particular reason - they just didn't feel like peacing out, and I had massive happiness, so I might just as well. Then I moved my troops to American border, at the same time doing diplomatic campaigning of bribes, election rigging, coups, and doing various quests to get as many city states on my side as possible.

War with America was much slower, as I overextended myself a bit trying to take 3 cities, plus some navy from Hong Kong just a bit off the coast joining on their side. Atlanta fell, and as they lost all units they decided to cut the loses and give me Boston for a truce. There was also a ton of fighting in the sea between city states allied with me and city states allied with America (as well as some Americans ships), but none of that had any serious consequences.

Brazil then suicidally decided to attack me in Belo Horizonte a few turns after I peaced out America. Sure, my armies will take a few turns to get there, but I'm still at +22 happiness so there's no way they're keeping all their cities. They only have Cannons (vs my Artillery - that unfortunately also means their Great Wall is still working, but it matters less now since I can just shoot from with Artillery from outside their range) and Riflemen for melee, while I mostly rely on Cavalry which in 7 turns will turn into armored units.

I've actually seen their troops moving around Fortaleza a few turns before, but I didn't move my armies back as I thought AI wants to do the rational thing and attack weakened America or maybe turn South towards France - I did not expect them to attack me. I wish I had the option to confront AI about troop movements just as AI has the option to confront me about it.

I only have 1 Camel Archer left - I lost some in two wars, and upgraded others to Cavalry (unfortunately contrary to what Internet claimed, BNW did not fix the problem of terrain promotions not working on change from missile to melee units - well, as far as I can tell at least), and even so obsolete it's still an amazing unit and I wish I could build more. Maybe unique units should be buildable forever if someone so desires? Civ5 modding seems fairly simple, but I never really tried it, just looked at some code briefly.

I also have 3 Great Generals and I don't really know what to do with them - I plan to conquer Washington, and possibly everything on the way to Rio de Janeiro, so there's no point popping any Citadels there - and there's nothing interesting to steal on my other borders.

Victory progress:
• domination: 4/8 capitals
• diplomatic - 14/33 necessary votes
• science - still 19 techs away from all space ship parts, but I'm leading in tech
• culture - no idea how that even works

Area of all 3 wars should be visible on the map.

Post 6 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-17 00:27:01 UTC

Civilization 5 BNW: Arabia campaign (King)

Just a turn after Brazil attacked me, France joined the war too. I tried to use Cavalry offensively, which turned out to be a huge mistake - melee units move forward to the spot formerly occupied by killed unit, which usually means they can't get out and get shot at from multiple directions with flanking penalty to make matters worse - and Cavalry doesn't even get terrain bonuses. I wish I could keep making Camel Archers, obsolete or not. No big deal, Landships were coming soon, and then Tanks were not that far away.

Even together, Brazil and France didn't have much chance of overwhelming my defences anywhere, but then I didn't have any good way of striking back. Another problem was that I was spending all resources on war effort, so I couldn't do much city state diplomacy and I was slowly losing my allies.

Then unfortunately my easy guaranteed victory was spoiled when Brazil invented Flight, quickly started spamming Bombers and Fighters, and killing my units one by one. I rushed to build my own air force, but before I could get that done every single unit anywhere near Belo Horizonte-Fortaleza frontline was destroyed.

At least my war against France was going really well. 2 Artillery and 2 Landships were completely sufficient to destroy all French armies, take Paris, and then some time later Lyon. I focused on stalling Brazilian front while I was winning war with France - building intercepting Fighters (no Bombers), anti-aircraft guns and so on - it was pointless to keep throwing unit after unit at them as long as their had air superiority, but they were nowhere near strong enough to take the offensive. Then and as soon as France peaced out, Brazil decided it's time to bail out as well, and just handed over Fortaleza to me.

I'm currently at only +6 happiness, of which -28 I'm getting from dissidents - somehow people prefer Brazilian Autocracy to my Order, and I don't really understand how it works. It might have something to do with tourism maybe? Brazil is supposedly tourism-oriented.

I plan to have the final war against America soon, since they have just their capital remaining. My happiness is very low, but they have 11 wonders in their capital, so presumably that will balance out negative happiness (and American happiness is totally over the top ridiculous). If all these wonders could also get rid of that ridiculous -28 dissidents penalty it would be even better. The faster I win this war the better - once they research airforce, it will get a lot harder. Not that much harder, since there's only so fast you can build units in one city, but harder.

I'm even tempted to attack right away with just one Tank, one Artillery, and one Great General. It sounds ridiculously small, but then French army fell was completely crushed by not much larger force in much more difficult territory.

There's probably some way around it dissidents, but without much understanding of tourism system my best bet is to send my tanks on a guided tour. Maybe spamming archeologists would help? Who knows.

Most of the fighting took place on very narrow corridor between Belo Horizonte and Fortaleza, and in another narrow corridor between Basra, Lyon, and Paris - with mountain range separating two fronts. A few random units managed to find their way through jungles, hills, and marshes and got to New York, but that small reserve I left there just in case Americans got any ideas was enough to dispatch them very efficiently.

Victory progress:
• domination - 5/8
• diplomatic - 14/33


North - where the next war will happen

South - where this war happened

Post 7 - Originally published on Google+ on 2014-04-17 23:19:25 UTC

Civilization 5: Arabia campaign (King) - domination victory by turn 382

War against Americans wasn't too difficult, except they settled another Chicago really far to the West, on pretty much the Westernmost tip of Pangea even, near Tenochtitlan. So of course I had to burn that one as well, eliminating Americans from the game. Other civilizations I'm happy to leave there, but Americans had far too much city state influence for that.

Finally my efforts to outtourist Brazil became successful and I got up to +57 happiness. Next turn after that tourism win I invented Radar and upgraded all my 2 Bombers and 5 Fighters. That's as good as air superiority I'll ever have, especially with 2 Anti-Aircraft Guns sitting next to my 3 artillery, in a Citadel I built on Brazilian border. Without competition from Americans, I could get pretty much all the city states I wanted as well, so there was no risk from that direction.

Meanwihle AI entertained itself with petty wars like Brazil-Ethiopia and Aztecs-Portugal, with little hope of any of them getting anywhere. (Brazil actually took Harar)

Anyway, the big war. Annoyingly, Brasilia collapsed right away on the first turn, taking 2/5 of Brazilian airforce with it, making my careful positioning pretty much completely pointless. Next turn I took Sao Paulo, and his 3rd air unit with it, cutting Brazil in half, while making my positioning really awkward, with Artillery far behind frontlines, air force damaged, and Tanks isolated in front lines.

So I pulled my troops forward, and my anti-aircraft guns shot down their Bomber, leaving them with just 1 remaining air unit. It turns out they got Artillery now as well, so danger zone around cities is now a lot larger, but it's not a huge deal, and they had very few Artillery units (well, just 1 that shot at me, not sure if there were more elsewhere). A few turns later I took Salvador, attacking it with heavily damaged airforce and losing one of my Bombers in process, but it was worth it, since it's adjacent to Addis Ababa - Ethiopian capital.

I let Brazil live taking Harar in the peace deal - a small city they stole from Ethiopia just before our war (and one of the reasons why Brazilian territory was so underdefended - their armies were mostly down there in Harar), and proceeded to burn it right away. Now I could try to come with some fancy victory conditions, but by then I had 7/8 capitals, and all my troops with really good access to weakly defended Ethiopian capital.

Two turns, and it was all over. Harar didn't even finish burning out. 7 turns later I'd finish both Manhattan Project and Nuclear Fission research simultaneously, and I could start building nukes, just in case my campaign needed that extra final push.

Retrospectively, it was the most fun campaign I had in Civ5. AI had obvious massive cheaty bonuses of the kind that usually annoy me, and then it was also obviously stupid to let me balance that out. It was happy to start a war when it sensed an opportunity (unlike Paradox games, where AI is far too timid for optimal enjoyment level), but also knew when to cut the loses and accept peace deal a unfavourable terms instead of prolonging the war unnecessarily (unlike Total War games, where AI fights to the death every time, no exceptions).

I'm not sure if it was more King difficulty level, or more using 8-civilization rather than 6-civilization map that made campaign longer and more challenging. It's a lot better than my first impressions of Civ5 were, but then I feel I've had enough for now, and I don't really feel like playing more of it anytime soon.

My biggest mistakes:
• Using Pangea Plus map generator instead of Pangea - placing every city state on own tiny island removes a lot of diplomacy from the game
• Having military maybe 2-4 units too small to discourage AI attacks early on, and then sending 2 of my units to clear out Barbarian camp mid-war with Portugal - which resulted in retrospectively unsurprising Aztec attack.
• Ignoring obvious military buildups near my borders, assuming they go for another AI. That's actually what France - grouped their troops near my capital, which I reinforced, and then proceeded to attack Portugal. I expected Brazil to attack Americans the same way, so I did not reinforce (even though it would have been trivial), and they attacked me instead.
• Taking cities my happiness level would not let me take. I was one rebel spawn away from losing the campaign once, since pillaged road from the capital is nearly instant campaign loss (this is shitty design, but what can I do about that). If I waited a turn or two, maybe I could get my happiness buffer high enough to avoid rebels completely. This doesn't apply when the capital is coastal - then redundant connections are very cheap, so there's little risk of getting -20 happiness and -200 gpt from one tile pillage, followed by inevitable chain collapse.
• Not realizing how powerful air units are against unprotected armies - all my previous campaigns were over before AI could build any. To be fair, I learned that really quickly and combined operations of airforce, artillery, and tanks was how I was able to take over Brazil and Ethiopia so quickly.

And some puzzles:
• I think I screwed something hard with faith, since I was overflowing with faith points for second half of the game, with my religion dominant pretty much everywhere, and nothing really to show for this effort.
• I got massive dissidents penalty to happiness somehow caused by Brazilian tourism pressure. How exactly that works is a bit mysterious, only with massive spending to get tourism running I was able to stop that.

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