Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Warlords - 4/20 hours

I thought I was going to do something clever with the Warlords scenarios. I thought I'd write one post per scenario, playing through it until I either won or lost, and then describing the experience. It seemed like a good plan . . . and then I started up the Alexander the Great scenario.

It's not a bad scenario, by any means, but it does emphasize exactly those parts of the game that I like the least. You start off in Greece and have 200 turns to conquer all the cities on the map, stretching all the way east, into India. It's a nonstop war from beginning to end, and unfortunately, Civ4's combat system is . . .

I want to say "soul-crushingly tedious," but that's not quite right. Tedium isn't really a problem. The problem is that success in war is decided almost entirely by numbers, and when you have two huge empires fighting each other, it can get bogged down in an endless war of attrition. This is especially true in a scenario, where neither side can benefit from a decisive technological advantage. You win by bringing more units to the battle, while making sure your army composition is diverse enough to deal with every contingency - Archers are the best for city defense, catapults and swordsmen are best for invasions, cavalry beats infantry - unless they're spearmen, in which case they'll tear through cavalry like it's nothing - but it's not quite enough to win. You've got to win by a large enough margin that your remaining units are sufficient to shut down the enemy's industrial capacity, otherwise they'll just rebuild and you'll have to do it all again.

Which is what's going on here. Usually, I'll try and delay wars as long as possible, focusing on developing my technology and infrastructure, in the hopes of producing superior units at higher speeds. However, given that here, I'm playing against a technologically equivalent foe with a larger industrial base, it has devolved into a stalemate.

It's my fault. I started with a large military advantage, but after I took a few cities, I tried to build up a defensive force in order to consolidate my holdings in the hopes of staving off a counterattack. It's a plan that worked pretty well, except for the fact that I wound up squandering my momentum. Now I'm fighting off one massive army after another from the east with my multiple massive armies from the west, and I think I'm winning, on balance, but, well, the city of Damascus has changed hands about a half-dozen times by now.

I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to win the scenario, and I don't care to try. There are eight Warlords scenarios, and I've already spent four hours on this one, so I'm going to move on and hope that the others have more exploration, building, and diplomacy.

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