Rome Timeline Game Notes

Rome Timeline Game Notes

Preliminary Notes: On Barbarians, Restarts, and Map Variables

A quick note on variables selected. I always play with Raging Barbarians, not for the negligible 25 points, but because they add spice to the game and they help keep me honest in the late game when Guerrilla Uprisings offer the only competition. (In Civ3, points should awarded for barbarians eliminated!) On restarting eliminated players, I consider it more challenging to allow the restarts in that a small civilization can still be an effective conduit of in the exchange of knowledge between the larger AI civs, and thus tends to increase the AI challenge. (And sometimes, it’s that restarted civilization that gives me the greatest challenge towards the end of the game.)

As for the Map Variables: I enjoy playing with the variables Wet and Cool, or Arid and Warm, both set with a planetary age of 3 Billion years. This tends to produce terrain in clusters, and the terrain produced tends to be more of a challenge in terms of “conquering nature.” The downside of this, however, is that it tends to handicap AI civs, who are less adept at dealing with problematic terrain. One has to take one look at the starting position of the Aztec civilization to know that they are doomed from the start. (This configuration can also produce better “educated guesses” in terms of early exploration.)

Modernization as Strategy


Civilization is a game that lends itself to many different approaches, many different styles of play. The attached timeline and its game reflects my particular style of play as a single-player game at Deity level, and one that emphasizes a specific approach to the “mid-game.” I have no experience with multiplayer games, but no doubt players of multiplayer games will immediately identify aspects of this playing style that become much more problematic against an intelligent opponent versus the AI Civs (recalling, of course, that AI stands “anti-intelligent”).

Most discussions of strategy emphasize the opening game; the heart of my approach to the game involves modernization. By this, I refer to a specific program of development from of development from Industrialization onwards. The attached timeline is representative. In 1808, I discover industrialization; in 1830, I achieve Robotics and Communism (14 advances in 12 turns: Ind, Cor, E2, Ref, Stl, Com, Aut, Too, MP, Min, Cmp, Mob, Rob, Cmn). And during these 12 turns, I have also built Darwin’s Voyage, Hoover Dam, and SETI, as well as Women’s Suffrage (with the UN built in 1832, one year after the discovery of communism). By comparison, the most advanced AI civ, the Chinese, achieves three advances during these 12 turns: Ind, Dem, Med. This is a decisive leap in the technology race.

More importantly, behind this technological leap is a civilization that is primed and ready to exploit the benefits of this explosion of progress (see 1800.gif). Rome, my Science City, has a population of 32. Around Rome, in the heart of my civilization, are the cities of Hispalis (23), Veii (22), Byzantium (21), Virconium (17), Lugundum (20), Lutetia (19), Ravenna (21), and Cumae (16); just to the east are Pisae (19) and Caesaraugusta (22) — all connected by rail. These are ten cities ready to become the dynamo of Roman industrial power: with factories, these cities will have a cumulative potential production of 496 shields; with manufacturing plants, a cumulative potential production of 620. Or, to put it in more concrete terms, they will be capable of producing 11 Armor/Howitzer units every other turn at a time when other civilizations are still armed with Musketeers, Dragoons, and Catapults.

For me, this process of Modernization is the most enjoyable part of the game of Civilization; it is the apex of up to 250 turns of careful planning and reckless inaction aimed at the progressive development of my civilization. Once I have completed modernization, the brutal elimination of opposing civilizations, the aggressive colonization of the rest of the world, and the launching that space ship to the stars almost seem as if they were an afterthought. After all, once I’ve completed the process of modernization, the outcome of the game is not in question; it’s merely an issue of scoring “style points” for how I decide to finish the game.

But arriving at the point of the game where I am ready to achieve this “Great Leap Forward” requires “sequence and order, time and stress.” And so to the beginning …

Laying the Foundations: From a Band of Wandering Nomads to the “Modern Triad”

The early part of my game probably does not differ much from that of anyone else. I usually employ the “Philosopher King’s Opening,” Monarchy variation (Alp, Cer, CoL, Mys, Mon; Wri, Lit, Phi, Hor, PT, Rep, MT). The goal of my initial expansion is to found six to eight cities by 1500 B.C. that will become the core of my civilization and then expand this core to 12 to 16 cities by 1 A.D. (If there is another civilization in the neighborhood, I try to pick up mercenaries from the smaller tribes, and then either contain that civilization or eliminate it altogether.) I target the Colussus, the Hanging Gardens, and Michaelangelo’s Chapel as my first three wonders. Once these are built, usually with food caravans from other cities, I switch to Republic, hike the luxury rate, and push these cities up to size 8; once I have Construction, I build aqueducts and I hike the luxury rate again to raise them to twelve.

In terms of the all important “first builds” for the core of my civilization, I generally build in the following order (except, of course, in my Science City):

  1. Settler to found new city.
  2. Settler to make roads/irrigate/mine for existing city.
  3. Food caravans as necessary to help build initial wonders (i.e., Colossus, Hanging Gardens, Michaelangelo’s Chapel).
  4. Trade caravans to establish at least one trade route between each city and the city with the Colossus.
  5. Aqueducts (and Harbors if needed to boost the population past 8).
  6. More trade caravans to establish trade routes between each city and the city with the Colossus (and, if necessary, more food caravans to the produce next set of wonders: usually King Richard’s Crusade, Copernicus’s Observatory, and Newton’s College).
  7. Market Places and Banks.

Judging from a recent debate in the CivFanatics Forum, my selection is somewhat unusual for three principal reasons: no defenders, no temples, and trade caravans before city improvements. On the first point, I do build some military units, but they are generally built only to contain civil disorder while I am in Monarchy. Otherwise, I play the early game as isolationist as possible, and I often leave myself fairly open to barbarian incursions early in the game. But the loss of one or two cities out twelve to sixteen in the early game are more of an inconvenience than a true setback; it is usually just a question of raising taxes and inciting a revolt where necessary. On the second point, I honestly cannot remember the last time I’ve built a temple; the first three wonders I build more than compensate for the shields I’d otherwise use on these city improvements. (The math here is fairly simple: Food caravans costs only ten shields more than a temple; with eight to twelve cities, this is 400 to 600 in shield production that can be applied to my first three wonders, the cumulative effect of which is superior to a temple and they will effect every city in my civilization.) On the third point, I’ve reached the point where I consider trade routes between my cities and the Colossus as city improvements. Once I’ve built Michaelangelo’s Chapel, the Hanging Gardens, and the Colossus, these trade routes combined with a Republican government and periodic 80% luxury tax rates allow me to boost populations of these cities up to 12 — without marketplaces and banks! This is the reason why my first city improvement tends to be an aqueduct. Furthermore, trade routes do not incur the expenses of city improvements, as well as generating those extra trade arrows that are the basis of both science and the economy. While this approach to early builds leads to an illusion of backwardness — in this game I had built only five city improvements by 500 A.D — larger cities with established trade routes are the best foundations for a dynamic civilization.

From this basic opening game, my next objectives are building my science city and pursuing the “Modern Triad”: Explosives, the Railroad, and Democracy. When it comes to favorite units, Howitzers and Stealth Fighters are at the top of my list. But when it comes to one unit that has the most decisive impact in any given game, my vote goes for the engineer. The engineer is a quantitative and qualitative leap over its predecessor the settler. Able to mine and irrigate twice as fast as the settler, its two movement points and ability to transform terrain make it even more valuable, especially when it comes to preparing an economy and society for Modernization. As for the other two, the advantages of the Railroad and Democracy are fairly evident to everyone. (I usually build the Statue of Liberty as a priority in that it gives me the option of an early switch to Fundamentalism or Communism if another civilization obliges me to fight a defensive war to protect the core of my civilization.)

Critical Transition: The Approach to Modernization

No doubt, there are many who will disagree with this part of my approach to the game. The central issue can be formulated thus: “You have the Railroad, and you have Banking. Why not go for Industrialization immediately?” When I first began playing Civ2, I always industrialized as soon as possible. With experience, however, I’ve radically changed my approach. And the essence of this change is the realization that the AI Civs tend to become altogether predictable once you reach the threshold of industrialization. On the one hand, if opposing civilizations have not already allied against your “aggression,” they will begin to ally once you reach the threshold of industrialization; furthermore, they also tend to mutually orient their research programs toward industrialization, to the exclusion of other critical techs such as sanitation, democracy, and explosives. On the other hand, once you do achieve industrialization, opposing AI civs demonstrate a remarkable facility for hunting you down with diplomats and, sooner or later, stealing industrialization.

A more compelling reason to delay industrialization is that Industrialization without Combustion leads to not one of the modern units of offensive warfare (e.g., Mech. Inf., Armor, Howitzers, Fighters, Bombers, and Battleships). This limits the potential impact of early industrialization. The same is true of city improvements; Industrialization without Combustion leads to only one city improvement, the Police Station; and Women’s Suffrage can provide a police station in every city even before the Police Station becomes available. After Combustion, Superhighways, Mass Transit, and the Airport are just around the corner. Thus, why not fill out those prerequisites for the Automobile, Mobile Warfare, and Flight that you can achieve prior to Industrialization (i.e., Metallurgy, Electricity, Leadership, Conscription, and Tactics).

In addition to these expensive units and city improvements, with Industrialization comes the Wonders of the Modern World at 600 shields apiece. In all, the economy of scale drastically changes with Industrialization; to make the most of industrialization, it helps to have large cities to exploit its benefits. Since I already have the Sanitation advance, I always pursue Refrigeration via Metallurgy and Electricity (which are also the prerequisites for Hoover Dam, best of the modern Wonders) before I start researching Industrialization. With farmland and a supermarket, you will be able to get more production out of those cities with mines and woodlands. And surplus population over 20 can equate to increased entertainment for your industrial workers (i.e., a counterbalance against unhappiness). Finally, that surplus population as scientists can also boost your science output, especially in your science city.

Hence, my research program after achieving the Explosives/Railroad/Democracy triad is almost invariably the following: Met, Ldr, E1, Csc, Tac, Ref, Amp. Only then do I research industrialization. More importantly, after the discovery of refrigeration, I usually set my science tax rate to 0% and concentrate on economic and social development of the core of my civilization (i.e., completion of a core railnet; creating farmland; building hills/forests to optimize production in my targetted industrial cities; boosting the population of my cities with luxury rates and “We Love the Prez” day; building up my financial reserves for the rush-building of factories, mass transit systems, offshore platforms, and super highways; etc.) This is a critical transition, the one that makes possible the qualitative and quantitative leap that I achieve with modernization. Having already forged ahead of other civilizations in the science race — primarily by avoiding wars and the construction of a military that will soon become obsolete — I essentially allow the AI civilizations to close the science gap while I prepare the foundations of my civilization for a decisive exploitation of a rapid process of modernization. In a sense, I’m laying a trap for the AI civs. Generally, I will try to delay the start of modernization for as long as possible, since there is usually more economic and social growth to be achieved before I reset science tax to 80% or 90%. However, timing is important. When an opposing civilization begins researching the Railroad it is usually a good time to commence “the Great Leap Forward,” though it can be delayed up to the message: “… have almost completed Darwin’s Voyage.”

Modernization, Militarization, End Game

In the introduction to this discussion, I have already stated my research program from industrialization to robotics. Here I should address the decision: Automobile or Flight? Invariably, I take the automobile, and not simply because I prefer to wage war with howitzers. The first reason for this is that with Flight, the advantages of the Colossus expire; while by taking the Automobile through Robotics route, I can quickly build a superhighway and then SETI in my science city. This is my particular extension of the “Super Science City” tactic. At the end of the modernization process in this game, my science city was producing 1376 beakers per turn; and on the eve of the expiration of the Colossus in 1854, Rome had a maximum capacity of producing 1648 beakers per turn. Furthermore, there is the continuing trade benefits (i.e., money) accruing to all my cities trading with Rome. Second, the Mass Transit city improvement allows a city to produce up to 40 shields without pollution (assuming, of course, the rush build of Hoover Dam). Third, at the end of this line of research is the manufacturing plant, a further guarantee that I will have a fair number cities with the ability to produce at least one armor unit or howitzer every other turn (though the “hill-building” I’ve done has usually guaranteed this).

An essential part of this rapid modernization process has been the use of caravans trading with a foreign civilization to achieve the maximum potential of scientific research every turn. Normally, I accept and advocate the argument that is more important to forego trading with other civilizations, and instead using trade caravans to boost trade with one’s own cities. Rapid modernization is the principal exception I make to this general rule. In this game, prior to the initiation of this process, I had 18 trade caravans based in my beachhead at Macao, all of them consisting of goods demanded by the Chinese, and all of them based out of the city with the Colossus, Rome. In all, on the eve of modernization, they had the potential of boosting my science research a total of 9000 beakers. With Rome initially producing 810 beakers per turn, and the rest of my civilization a further 1737 beakers per turn, these trade caravans (along with Darwin’s Voyage) provided the necessary margin to achieve the 14 advances of modernization in 12 turns.

However, in terms of scientific research, trading with a foreign civilization is a two-way street. By establishing these trade routes between a foreign civilization and the Colossus, I am decisively boosting the scientific research of that foreign civilization. In order to maintain this decisive technological advantage achieved in this process of modernization, it becomes all but necessary to aggressively curtail or eliminate the foreign civilization with which I have used trade caravans to boost my scientific research. For this reason, if trade caravans are to be used as part of this modernization process, it is important to choose a civilization to trade with that is close enough that you can you decisively attack as soon as the modernization process is complete.

When one decides to end this process of rapid modernization depends on circumstances and preferences. Even after the discovery of Flight reduces the output of your science city, with SETI and the continued use of trade caravans, you should be able to maintain an average of about one advance per turn up to the discovery of Stealth technology. In this particular game, I decided to end the process in 1834, after 15 turns, so as to eliminate the Chinese from the game, having more than tripled their trade and science output. (In my current game the results of this process were even more spectacular: I started the modernization process in 1830 and ended it 1857 with the acquisition of Fusion Power, averaging two civilization advances per turn while engaged in a Total War that reduced the five remaining civilizations to the nominal “last city.”)

In this game, after a four-turn Fundamentalist regime during which a force of 6 armor, 10 howitzers, and 15 bribing diplomats/spies overthrew the Chinese civilization in 1842-1844, I returned to democracy in 1848 and remained in that form of government for the rest of the game. Since the remaining three civilizations did not have the ability to pursue science at anywhere near the rate I could, the conquest of China effectively ended the competitive aspect of this game. As I said earlier, after modernization the game largely becomes an issue of preferences of how to end the game. At my leisure, Carthage was reduced from a 24 city empire to an one city enclave during a six turn operation between 1881 and 1886; and the Zulu and Mongol civilizations were eliminated in one turn blitzes in 1925 and 1935 respectively. In 1929, I began the process of reforesting the planet, beginning with the “Carthaginian Primitive Reserve.” In 1938, I reached my objective of 15 cities with a production of 80 plus shields (destined to build a spaceship); that same year, my first food caravan arrived in Rome — the beginning of the process of building Rome up to a population of 120 (72,600,000); and at about this time, I started the mass accumulation of food caravans. In 1949, I founded Alexandria, the last of my cities. In 1976, having produced approximately 1640 food caravans, I discovered that the maximum number of units in the game is 2046. In 1980 I launched Phase I of “Operation Breadbasket,” beginning the process of building Ravenna, Nicomedia, Lutetia, Cumae, Hispalis, Veii, Tarentum, Byzantium, Antium, Neapolis, Caesaraugusta, and Pisae up to a population of 60. In 2000, I began construction of my spaceship, completed without rush builds in 2008 and launched in 2009. In 2010 I began Phase III of “Operation Breadbasket,” raising the remaining cities of the core of my civilization up to population 40, and “rounding up” all other cities to a factor of 4, minimum population of 32; while “Operation Breadbrasket” resulted “hunger” in every city, in 2020 each city had a reserve of food caravans to feed the population for at least 20 years. In 2016, I achieved Future Tech 255. And in 2020, the R.S.S. Julius Caeser made its landing on Alpha Centauri to complete the game.

Postscript: On War, the Military, and Economy of Force

Note: What follows should not be considered as a “strategy” on conducting military operations in Civ2. For that, I’d recommend reading Mark Fisher’s extensive exposition, “Fire! Making War in Civ II.” If anything, these are brief considerations of certain aspects of this game that merit discussion, and should be considered — at best — as supplements to Mr. Fisher’s article.

In Civ2, among the characteristics of AI leaders is the dichotomy of “perfectionist” and “militaristic.” This can be applied as well to the two fundamental “styles of play” among human players of the game, especially when playing single as opposed to multi-player games. The perfectionist player aspires to achieving the highest level of development for his civilization, usually reflected in attaining the highest score possible (or alternatively, launching the Space Ship at the earliest possible date.) The militaristic player aspires to the destruction of their opponents; this appraoch probably prevails in multiplayer games.

For a “perfectionist” player like myself, it becomes an ideal to exercise the principal of “economy of force.” In U.S. military doctrine, this means never expend too much military power in secondary theaters of operations; always concentrate maximum force in the primary theater of operations. In the British military tradition, this principal means “a careful balancing of means and results,” the deliberate application of all available military power to the requirements of a specific political and military objective, and the avoidance of the unnecessary waste of resources on secondary objectives. In Civ2, where the leader must also run an economy and society, the principle of Economy of Force can be extended: Avoid wasting production on military manpower that will not be used toward achieving specific political and military objectives.

For me, the application of this principal has resulted in a specific approach to the conduct of war in Civ2. As a general rule, the pursuit of prosperity is always preferable to war; and when war becomes a necessity, it must be prosecuted as quickly and as economically as possible. To quote the timeless Sun Tzu, “When the army engages in protracted campaigns the resources of the state will not suffice. … Thus, while we have heard of blundering swiftness in war, we have not yet seen a clever operation that was prolonged. For there has never been a protracted war from which a country has benefited. [The Art of War, 2:4-7]”

In Civ2, I divide warfare into three basic types: total war, containment, and “phoney” war, governed by the following principles.

  1. If a total war cannot be decisive, avoid it; if a total war can be decisive, ensure that it is conducted with alacrity.
  2. If a containment can be achieved, pursue it; if a containment cannot be achieved, make peace.
  3. If a state of war exists where the enemy fails to demonstrate an ability to achieve results, you are engaged in phoney war; do not commit unnecessary force to its prosecution unless you can achieve a decisive total war or a successful containment.

Regardless of the type of war, I always attempt to pursue war with an economy of force.

Containment is worth a brief consideration, for it provides an excellent example of the cynical exploitation of the inadequacies of the AI in Civ2, and one that allows a maximum application of the principal of economy of force. In Civ2, the opposing AI civs demonstrate a remarkable predictability in their conduct of war. Two quotes from Sun Tzu’s Art of War should suffice. “He who knows the art of the direct and the indirect approach will be victorious. Such is the art of maneuvering [7:16].” “Ground equally advantageous for either the enemy or me to occupy is key [i.e., defensive] ground. … Do not attack an enemy who occupies key ground; … [9:4, 9:10].” I have never seen an AI civ successfully adopt a strategy of the indirect approach; and I’ve always seen an AI civ repeatedly and wastefully throw forces against an impregnable position. In this game the “Calixtlahuaca Defense” proved this point.

In 100 A.D., a diplomat incited a revolt in the Aztec city of Calixtlahuaca; the position was quickly fortified, and garrisoned by 2 horseman, 1 chariot, 1 archer, and 1 diplomat (see CalixDef.gif). For the next 30 turns, the Aztecs repeatedly committed its meager military forces against this position, resulting in the loss of 8 warriors, 3 phalanxes, 5 archers, 6 horseman, 2 settlers, and 1 diplomat. This represents a total of loss of 312 shields of production (adjusted for Deity). Examining afterward the saved game files, during this period the entire Aztec economy was producing about 10 shields per turn; and during this time, it produced only one city improvement, a harbor. In a word, for about 30 turns, nearly the entire Aztec economy was wasted in futile assaults against an all but impregnable position! Thus, for a minimal investment of my military power, I established a containment position that sapped my enemy’s economy for an extended period of time.

As for total war, in Civ2 it has but one meaning: the elimination of an opposing civilization. Because the Senates of the Republican and Democratic forms of government will often agree to a cease fire behind your back, achieving the objective of total war often requires a shift to a more militaristic but economically less valuable form of government, e.g., Monarchy, Communism, or Fundamentalism. This switch to a less economically oriented government is one reasons why I try to ensure that my wars of conquest are as quick and decisive as possible (and usually delayed until the advent of howitzers and armor). In this game, my conquests of the Aztecs and of the Chinese required such a switch to Fundamentalism. Both were as quick as might be expected, given the limited military power I had at my disposal at that time. Nonetheless, my “conquest by diplomat” of the Aztecs (in the pre- Mobile Warfare age), required only four turns; my “conquest by diplomat” of China — supported by a handful of armor and howitzers — required but two turns.

Carthage, because of her size, was an altogether different matter. Nonetheless, I successfully prosecuted this war as a Democracy without the Senate getting involved even once. To conquer an opposing civilization without having to switch to one of the more militaristic governments is to pursue war not only as a science but also as an art. One of the two conditions of diplomacy that govern the prosecution of total war as democracy is: After the conquest of an enemy city, once a land unit of yours makes contact with a land of the enemy, the enemy will make an offer of cease fire. And if you are democracy, you always run the risk of your Senate saying “Enough is enough.” One way around this problem is to try and take all the cities in one fell swoop be eliminating every land unit prior to the capture of enemy cities. After the preliminary seizure of the Gades-Alalia-Himera peninsula by my bribing spies, I spent the next four turns bleeding the Carthaginians white with howitzers, armor, and stealth fighters operating from my two aircraft carriers.

Once the Brigantium-Carthage railway was completed in 1885, I was in the position to carry out the final part of “Operation Chimera”: the blitzkrieg against Carthage. Having already bled Carthage of much of its military in the previous four turns, and with an additional 6 armor and 6 howitzers brought up from Brigantium, I finally advanced on all fronts and proceeded to eliminate all but two of Carthage’s land units. Since neither of these were in a position to make contact with my advancing land units, I had successfully obviated the diplomatic condition noted above (see Blitz.gif). I then proceeded to capture sixteen cities that same year, and mopped up three more in 1886, reducing Carthage to the lone city of Theveste. Since there was no land unit left to offer a cease fire, my senate could not get in the way. This is one way to fight a war as democracy. (It’s also a benefit of my “modernization” approach to the game; since the opposing civilization had not yet discovered Communism, no partisans arose to offer a cease fire either. Once Communism is discovered, this “Bleed’em White” strategy becomes more problematic.)

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