We’re about a third of the way through our PBEM Civilization IV: Warlords game, playing the excellent Chinese Unification scenario. In single player, the scenario is largely about diplomacy – persuading your opponents to support your claim to the Mandate of Heaven. So you export your bloodline or strategically convert, all the while beating on whoever looks like they are going to be a threat. Then you suck up to get the votes you need to win.
In multiplayer, this is not going to happen. Aside from a couple of “open borders” arrangements, there hasn’t been a lot of chatter or horse-trading. All sides start with similar resources, so there is no blackmailing with horses or tea. Three of the states are AI controlled and serve as buffers between the human players. This game will be almost entirely about conquering the votes you need to win.
This would be exaggerated in a two player game, of course. When the only options are “win” or “lose”, there is no incentive to talk to your opponent at all. But with four players, the politics should be getting sticky soon. Eventually, an alliance of convenience will have to be formed against whoever is the biggest threat. Balance of power politics will make sure that everyone is in play when the Council Building is constructed.
The nature of the opponent has a dramatic impact on the civics you choose. Since this will be a military game, keeping the people happy in a prolonged war becomes important, as does lowering the cost of conquered cities or extra troops. It’s a truism that you play differently against the AI in all games, but this isn’t about exploiting AI weaknesses or taking advantage of AI predictability. It’s about the entire zeitgeist changing because the AI is willing to vote for someone else where a human is more likely to drag it out to the final conclusion. Add to that the fact that you know what your computer controlled opponents think of you (Annoyed because I Follow A Heathen Religion) whereas everything that Alan Au does is sure to be a trap.
My Wei Kingdom is doing nicely, by the way. Two of my AI controlled neighbors declared war on me. One agreed to a draw after a sitzkrieg and the other lost a city to my chariots when a fake buildup on the other side of the map pulled a lot of his defence away. I’m also putting a lot of cultural pressure on one of his cities – pressure that will grow once I take a nearby barbarian settlement.
Still in third place though. A human opponent built the Chinese Great Library, so that gave him a huge boost. My marble is still unquarried since I had to rush to get my metals ready for the wars. I’ll keep you updated as I go through this.
The scenarios, by the way, are the best part of Warlords and are well worth the price of admission. With the new Civ expansion two months away, I hope we’ll hear more about what stories Firaxis has included this time around.