Just off the coast of that peaceful AI Civ awaits certain doom. An armada of transport ships loaded with troops and escorted by the finest warships known to man has arrived at their launch point. The rain of flames that will descend on the enemy cities and ships is an irresistible force. This review is of that seafaring nightmare known by the name of the Byzantines.
Seafaring and Scientific, the Byz have a set of traits that in combination results in game play that is uniquely different from most of the other Civs. With the starting techs of Alphabet and Bronze Working the Byz have 2 of the most valued techs by the AIs – this in turn leads to a very strong position at the bargaining table come tech trading time. Early on it is not uncommon for the Byz to keep up in tech even with the goody hut-popping expansionist Civs. The Seafaring trait produces extra commerce in cities built on the coast, gives a half priced discount on harbors, increases ship range by 1 and most importantly decreases the chances of sinking out at sea prior to Astronomy. The ‘suicide galley strat’ is one that you must use – and use extensively! This last attribute alone (in the hands of a human) makes the Seafaring trait unmatched on Arch maps and quite strong on Cont maps. The AI is supremely stupid with Seafaring in that it will never attempt a suicide run for contact – the generally poor AI handling of this trait makes newer players mistake Seafaring as a weak trait.
Working along with Seafaring, is the Byz Scientific trait giving a boost to science research, producing the occasional SGL and most importantly providing the half priced libraries and universities that the Byz will build in order to keep up in the tech race, and quite often dominate it. The 2 traits are simply deadly on Arch maps – the ability to get strong tech research even when isolated, a head start on the Writing/Literature/Map Making research path and the Seafaring advantage of early ‘first’ contacts that establishes diplomatic and commercial dominance. For obvious reasons the Byz should quite often consider targeting the ‘seafaring’ Great Wonders – the Great Lighthouse being the most invaluable. This Great Wonder combined with a decent start can quite often leave your game victory in no doubt very early on. The Republic to Demo government line is well suited for this Civ.
The Byz UU is the dreaded Dromon. Available with Map Making and replacing the Galley, the Dromon is the absolute terror of the seas for well over an entire age! A 30 shield 2-1-3 super-galley with a transport capacity of 2 and ‘bombard ability’, the Dromon can more than hold its own even with the advent of Caravels. The most controversial aspect of the Dromon is its bombard ability. The Byz can play absolute havoc with enemy coastlines – delaying and retarding enemy growth to the point of a standstill – it is a ‘pillager’ second to none. In the role of amphibious escort/transport there simply is nothing like it in the game. Invading with near impunity (galleys and caravels are loath to intercept this monster) the Dromon is unique in that its job has only really just begun. The enemy city will be treated to a ‘stream of fire’ reducing the defense strength of the units within, also once the city is taken the Dromon can enter the city itself and provide bombard service to the responding AI units in the surrounding inland squares, and thus greatly diminish the AIs counter-attack power. The Dromon will rule the seas until the advent of Frigate class warships.
The Byz are supremely well suited for the ‘balance of power’ type player, the player that likes to alternate between wars and peace – culture building and warmongering. A nice mid-sized core empire along with numerous far away Colonies (overseas captured coastal cities that provide strategic or luxury resources) is a Byz staple. As a warmongering CIV they dominate on Arch maps and do ‘nicely’ on Conts maps. As a culture Civ the cheap science buildings will have the Byz more than hold their own against a good half of the Civs in the game. On Pang maps the Civs value is drastically reduced, one upside however is that the Dromon can still be put to good use even on Pang maps.
There are 3 primary downsides to this Civ. First and foremost is the map dependant nature of the Seafaring trait, like Expansionist on Arch maps – Seafaring on Pang maps is reduced to the status of a mere ‘afterthought’. Secondly, despite the fearsome nature of the Dromon, it is quite awkward to properly initiate your GA with it – especially with the AI sea vessels running like hell in your presence! You will often times be forced to initiate a war of ‘expediency’ when there is a handy target vessel around. Thirdly, the Byz are generally ‘slow starters’ – without the REX advantages that other traits give, the Byz are often playing a game of catch-up. On a Conts map with the Germans and the Mongols as neighbors – a good deal of early ‘boot-licking’ is often in order. An early land based war will often retard your own growth severely. That said, on Arch maps the Byz are second to none!
Summary: An undisputed 1st tier Civ on Arch maps, a 2nd tier Civ on Conts maps and a below average 3rd tier Civ on Pang maps: the Byzantines average out to an overall 2nd tier Civ. With its unique trait combo and fascinating UU, the Byz popularity will continue to be among the highest in the game.
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