Where does the time go? Ten hours hardly seemed like anything, which I suppose is the sign of a good game, though much more of it than I'd like was spent on cleaning up pollution (damn, that is an annoying mechanic). I also spent a lot of time waging war. The process of aggressive imperial expansion is much more time-consuming than the responsible development of one's own internal culture and infrastructure (exactly the opposite of how things work in real life), but it did teach me a thing or two about the logic behind Civilization III.
You see, as time went on, my continent-spanning empire gained an abundance of strategic and luxury resources that made it easier to administer my territory and build an army to be feared by all. However, I also noticed that when my surpluses were not especially large. In fact, if all my continent was peaceful, and all its territory and resources were divided evenly among the five civilization that initially inhabited it, then no one would have had a full set, and no one would have had extras to trade away. Duplicates were so far from each other that it is absolutely certain that the AI would have jealously guarded its sole copy of specific, critical resources (this did work to my advantage, conquest-wise, as I was able to easily cut off the opposition's access to iron, giving me exclusive access to swordsmen).
The only conclusion I can come to is that Civilization III was never meant to be played with peaceful coexistence in mind. It assumes that you are going to be an aggressive conqueror, and is balanced accordingly. This really shouldn't come as a surprise, given that both of Civilization II's victory conditions were made massively easier by having a huge empire (spaceship victory was technically achievable as a peaceful nation, but since science output scaled linearly with empire size, the only way to get enough technology before the time limit was to expand dramatically, usually at the expense of your neighbors). And while there are new victory conditions, Cultural victory is mostly about turtling as much as possible to rack up a single mega-city, and Diplomatic victory is all won during the last few turns. Which isn't to say that the new victory conditions aren't welcome, just that they are, like many of Civilization III's other innovative elements, still in the prototype stage.
Yet the knowledge that Civ3 is still, at heart, a wargame is intensely liberating. Now that I have that information, I can adjust my expectations and strategies accordingly. I think I'll spend my last eight hours with the scenarios (my attempt to install a mod did not go well, it completely glitched out the system menus, somehow shifting the labels for the buttons so that, say, the archipelago option in the map select was labeled "difficulty" and similar bizarre juxtapositions), where my warmongering can be put to constructive use.