Monday, January 06, 2014

Diplomacy in Civ IV

I won my first game of Civilization IV last night. it's also my first completed solo game of Civ VI. Now in Civ II, I usually aim for a military victory by pursuing military technologies until I hit a stalemate, then keep the peace until a total war scenario breaks out. Once, just one time, I built a ship that traveled to Alpha Centauri.

I briefly played Civ III and I wasn't enthused to learn that there was a diplomatic victory. If the AIs in Civ II were people, they'd either be dumb, in need of more medication, or in need of less medication. They can't be reasoned with is what I'm saying.

The AIs in Civ IV aren't much better. They added a list of reasons why they hate you, but it's still not that much better when they still hate you because somewhere just after the dawn of mankind you accidentally demanded a haypenny in tribute.

None the less, I've been trying to get a feel for what they want to in order to test out a diplomatic victory. That means Mass Media technology, the United Nations wonder, and a population-based vote on a UN resolution that you win the game.

My game was a small to moderate sized world of islands, so production was limited to cities situated on on one of three continents. When I say "continent," I mean an island big enough to hold four to five cities.

There were seven civilizations. I was the Mongols, aggressive and cultured, gaining XP and culture bonuses. I spawned in the north and had a lot of shitty cities clinging to the tundra just below the sheets of ice that only provides the resource "reminding you your world is actually a scary cylinder floating in space."

The first other civilization I ran into was the Germans. Frederick, like many of the German civilizations I've come across in Civ IV, was a cool bro and we remained cool bros until the end of the game. The next guys I ran into were the Chinese and the Romans. Both were a reddish hue on the map, both were right behind me in civilization score, and both of them were kinda jerks. The Chinese and I went to war for about five minutes in 1460, but no one attacked each other and we awkwardly called the whole thing off before 1500 rolled around whereupon we became fast friends. The Romans on the other hand were directing the whole of their scientific research to develop new ways to be an utter cock to me, which is sort of how they play out in most games.

Oh, and get this: Rome got extra mad at me because I ended up paying the Chinese to help me out in a war the Romans started. It wasn't enough that my reputation with them suffered because I wouldn't just lie down and die the moment they declared war, they treated it as some kind of extra offense when I actually lifted a finger in order to win.

Montezuma was there too, but he was a punk bitch from the word "go" and when he declared war on me, I was happy because he'd snaked an island with horses out from under me in 100AD or so and it was a prime opportunity to fucking knock him off of it and use it as a local base from which to distribute ass-kicking to him and Cesar alike. Montezuma also went to war with Isabella of Spain early on. She hated both of us anyway, and for my part I did my best to ignore her. Not a great move in retrospect.

Finally, Mansa Musa was around. He does this thing where he succeeds in creating a great and wealthy empire, he's kind of a dick about it. Maybe if we had the same religion our relations wouldn't be as contentious in every game of Civ IV and he wouldn't end every one of our group games by being "the last asshole to die."

I kept my allies close and swept in to cut down Roman holdings whenever they gave me an excuse. Despite having two of the three good continents, by the time I finished researching Mass Media so I could begin the UN, there were only 40 turns left in the game.

And it would take my best city 40 turns to construct it. That left, according to my math. 0 turns for me to be elected, table my nomination as world leader, and complete a vote that would let me win. In a panic, I changed my tax rate to 100%. I had every other city produce wealth so that I could rush the production of the UN with gold as soon as I could (the great thing about island maps is that commerce is usually pretty good). The only exception was the city I had producing The Kremlin, which would have reduced the price for rushing production by 33%, which I still don't get, but I was happy to be halfway done with it.

So as I abandoned culture and science and my allies overseas began entertaining the notion that the most powerful civilization in the world was plotting to weaponize gold, I got a special person who instantly finished the UN.

When I voted to elect myself leader of the world (buoyed by the thousands of gold in gifts I was giving everyone), I noticed that my allies Germany and China voted for me while Rome voted against me. The next most powerful nation, Mansa Musa's, voted against me. That one made sense, but the real surprises were Isabella (against) and Montezuma (abstain). I would've expected each to go the other way.

I won anyway, both the vote to become secretary general and the later one to become world leader. It was exactly as anticlimactic as this story. There's no diplomatic screen for votes. There aren't any last-minute politics taking away votes you thought you could count on. It's fun though and I'm glad to have won.

I learned an important lesson about less-than-critical civilizations. Isabella wasn't a tie-breaking vote, but she could have been. A slight difference could have made it that way. Despite her hostile attitude, I could have given her stuff and tried to cultivate a relationship there. It would have been a miniscule difference in how I ran my game and would have been worth the extra padding.

As anti-climatic as it was though, I might do it again. Might not. It's a good ace-in-the-hole I might keep in case I'm popular abroad, but lagging behind in another victory condition. It's true in Civlization as it is in life; diplomacy is just a way of saying "nice doggy" while reaching for a rock.

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