Apolyton Demogame: The Pink Dot

Upon logging into the game for the first time, we found this starting position:

On a river was nice, but two peak tiles, lots of plains, and no visible food resources were not. The scout began southeast of the settler, and after discussion we moved it NW-SW to the tile in the picture seen above. Not seeing anything of particular value, we decided to move the settler one tile to the north, to get some more grassland tiles into play and remove those icky plains tiles. (It was possible to see some more grassland forests and hills via tile bleeding through the fog.) That revealed a noticeably better spot where we planted our first city:

The different graphics are caused by different players on our team logging into the game and taking screenshots - expect to see a lot of that! The resources at the start were a grassland cattle and a not-so-useful plains wine. Although this isn't a terrible start, it's not the strongest either. The real problem was a lack of food; +4 food/turn from the cattle was all we had, and that made for slow growth. Nor would the wines be of any use until some 100 turns into the game. Now that wouldn't be grounds for compaint if everyone else were in the same boat - but other teams had multiple food bonuses at their capital, and much stronger happiness resources. At least we had the river for bonus commerce, and tons of forests to chop. Love having those grassland forests!

We renamed our capital "Airstrip One", going with a silly 1984 theme at the outset for fun. Our scout headed west initially, then began a large clockwise circle around the starting position. Research went into Animal Husbandry, the logical first tech for a civ that started with Hunting and had cows at the start. (It would also give us early visibility on horse resources, an important deal in a Multiplayer game.)

The big discussion in these first turns was whether to start with a worker out of the gate, or play it safer and go with a warrior. We decided pretty quickly to go with the worker though, as the better long-term investment, even if it meant running a bit of risk at the outset. As Swiss put it:

Swiss Pauli:
For me, Worker first seems better. The empty city cannot be seen from any of the tiles on the diagonal, so even if we face a scouting warrior it'd be a very risky call to DoW [declaration of war] us. The price of someone calling our bluff is, of course, death!

Early turns in these kind of games mostly consist of moving the scouting unit, then waiting 24 to 48 hours for everyone else to play. Then do the same thing again. So we did that for quite some time, sooooo serving as our initial Turnplayer and doing an excellent job of taking screenshots each turn as the land was revealed. Our first goody hut unfortunately popped a map, but at least it gave us a good idea of our immediate starting area:

An immediate starting area that wasn't particularly good! Yes, we had a lot of forests to chop, but aside from that... Not too much good news here. Lots of plains tiles to the east and the south. Wines and silks for happiness resources, two of the weakest ones in the game. Tundra and ice to the north and northwest. While we did have stone, it was stuck in undesirable tundra. Similarly, the double clams were locked in the ice. These places would be worth grabbing eventually, but in the immediately future - ugh. There was room for one good city to the immediate west of Airstrip One, at the clams/cows/floodplains location. Only problem: where did we go after that?

We were hoping pretty feverently that better stuff would turn up to the south!

While waiting during these boring turns, mostly_harmless began tracking some of the Demographics numbers. Started in a dull period to pass the time, mh's "Cloak and Dagger" (C&D) department would become one of the hallmarks of Realms Beyond's success in the Demogame. Here's an example of some of the information that could be pulled out of the raw Demographics numbers:

Also the current in game points [T8]are:
PAL 41 (previous turn 37)
Rabbits 37 (37)
Banana 37 (37)
Imperio 31 (31)
Templar 31 (31)
RealmsBeyond 31 (31)

PAL are the only ones with a score increase by 4. This is consistent with gaining one additional pop point. We can confirm this by looking at the Top5 city screen, where one city (founded in the initial turn) has size 2. Also PAL as the leader in soldier points with 5000 up to the last turn, now gained 1000 additional points which are awarded if a city goes from size 1 to 2. And finally the drop of the Approval rate from 83 to 71 is only possible with 5 happy faces & 2unhappy faces (size2).

Furthermore, we know that PAL was among the first to research their first tech. Also they have grown rather quickly which implies they are the ones with 5fpt from the beginning. Apart from food gaining events there is no other way to grow to size 2 in 8 turns as the 22food are needed for the pop growth. If you recall the analysis of the Life Expectancy I did, evidence implied that one civ already picked up 2 unhealthy points at size 1 suggesting either jungles or floodplains or a combination of both. Now the value for the worst civ life expectancy has changed from 71 to 62 (again the only way to get 62 with size 2 is by picking up 3unhealthines). PAL being the only civ that can be the cause are the ones with the increased unhealthiness. My money is therefore on floodplains being worked since the beginning by PAL (additional unhealthiness, early tech, 3fpt tile for fast growth) Now I am a bit puzzled, as to what PAL did with their second tile, as there is no increase in fpt suggesting they are working a 0/?/? tile. There is an improvement in hammers from 1hpt to 2hpt for the worst civ. Suggesting a 0/1/? tile. (1hpt from before the grothw would be consistent with a non-hill city tile & flood plains) Funnily there is no change in the GNP numbers. But this can be due to rounding issues. (anyone know how the rounding for the rival average is done for GNP, MFG , Food?) For example a 19-16-16-16-16 distribution would give an average of 16.6=17. This might have been the case prior to PAL growth. And now we can have a situation up to 19-19-16-16-16 which also gives an average of 17.2=17. So PAL works a 0/1/3 tile or a 0/1/2 tile. Suggestions? Gold on a desert tile maybe, which would be consistent with the presence of flood plains. This analysis of course assumes they keep on working the floodplains.

Ok, enough of that. The change in soldier points is clear. PAL as the best rival civ got up to 6000 by the growth. And the Templars increased their soldier points from 1000 to 2000 by getting another Quecha going.

Thus on this single turn, mostly_harmless was able to determine that PAL had floodplains at the start (which was indeed correct!) and the fact that Templars had completed a second quechua to go along with their initial one. No one would ever want to do this level of analysis in a normal game of Civ4, since it takes forever, but if the game is already moving at a glacial pace, and it can offer an advantage, why not? Over time, the C&D department would grow into a dizzying array of charts, tables, and graphs that tracked the progress of our rivals, turn by turn, for centuries on end to come. I have seen this done by other teams in Demogames before, but never to the extent that we took it here. mh's C&D numbers were critical to our team's performance!

Airstrip One finished its worker on T16 and began training some warriors while growing to a larger size. Animal Husbandry failed to reveal any horses, which was a major disappointment considering that we had already scouting out most of the territory around our capital. We went onto Bronze Working next, as the logical choice to begin chopping forests and reveal the all-important copper resources. (It was pretty cool that Zara started with both Hunting and Mining techs, allowing us to go immediately onto AH and BW research!)

Turn 17 saw the first major doings of the game. First our scout popped a goody hut, which turned out to contain another scout inside! And using the second scout, we found another civilization, the Templars. Here is a picture from the following turn, as our new scout encountered the Templar borders for the first time:

This was the start of a very long, up-and-down relationship with the Templars. Their Incan civ was quite close to us, which is perhaps not what one would want when dealing with quechuas! Nevertheless, based on their non-aggressive team members and Huayna's starting traits of Financial/Industrious, we had the Templars pegged as a team more interested in roleplaying and grabbing religions than in playing a "kill and attack" type game. This belief, backed up by C&D statistics, would influence much of what we did in the early game. (For example, we knew that Templars had researched a religion out of the gate and founded Buddhism in their capital on T11.) Our first contact with the Templars went off friendly enough:

Realms Beyond to Templars:
Well met Good Sir! It is my outstanding pleasure to meet you and to find you well and good. I look forward to many years of fruitful contact between our great nations.

Your Voice to the Realms Beyond Team

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Dear Ruff, Voice of the Realms Beyond,

We are pleased to have made contact with your Realms. This message is intended to establish formal diplomatic relations. We hope this contact will prove mutually fruitful and that through peaceful coexistance we can together build a glorious future for both our teams.

Until we meet again.


Sir Aidun
Foreign Affairs Minister of the Knights Templar

So far, so good in terms of initial contact. Back home, our worker finishes the pasture on the cattle and prepared to start mining one of our hill tiles. Our two scouts (nicknamed Sharon and Tracy, in an "Essex Girls" reference that I think only our British team members understood) pushed back the fog around the Templar capital and in the deep south. By T20, we had revealed a lot of the terrain down there, leading to this screenshot:

That was when I first posted an ambitious plan which would determine so much of the future of this Demogame:

Looking at the map, I like the possibility of sending a settler (maybe even the first one!) to the plains hill one tile south of the rice. That would make a dynamite city location: cattle, rice, dyes (remember, we're Creative with cheap theatres!), at least four hill tiles, tons of forests for chopping, and in a fertile river valley. In fact, that spot is so good it could be the deleted Babylonian starting spot. (Maybe; hard to say what the map creator did.) With our Creative early cultural strength, that location would also largely block off Templar expansion to the west. We know there is an as-yet undiscovered ocean to the south. If we could get them to push east, and clean up much of the western side of our continent...

The big question would be could we defend the spot? With PAL or Imperio next door, I would say no. With the Templars next door, I say yes. So what do you think about a possible Santa Rosa manuever?

For the moment, this was little more than a pipe dream. But it had taken hold of my imagination, and we would soon return to this idea again.

Meanwhile, the Templars were sending us some interesting information:

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Dear Ruff,

Something else we would like to share with you is that we have discovered a yellow civ to our northeast, straight east from your scout's current position. We have not yet moved in such a way that we can see its territory, because we wish not to announce our presence to them and do not want them to know of our presence. Therefore, should you have a desire to explore in that direction, please to not inform that civ of our presence.

Until we meet gain,

Sir Aidun,
Foreign Affairs Minister of the Knights Templar

Another civ to the east was very good to know. We determined that the third team on our continent was therefore this mystery "yellow civ", which could be either PAL or Rabbits. (I know I was hoping that it was the Rabbits!) As far as strategy goes, it was hard to imagine why the Templars would back off and deliberately not contact this team. Contact with other teams offers a huge edge: discounted costs on techs they already know, trade routes, tech trading, possibility for diplomacy, alliances, and tech sharing, etc. Templars' decision to skip out on this for a while was pure stupidity. I have no idea what they were thinking here... and they were not lying to us either, as we found out shortly thereafter. This was an early example of Templar weedy moves. It would be far from the last.

Our scout Tracy was able to get into position to view the Templar capital of Jerusalem just before it expanded its borders from the early religion:

This was important for C&D purposes, allowing us to see what city improvements Jerusalem built (remember you can view them all on the map screen itself if you zoom in close enough) and get a general sense of their civ's development. From tile bleeding, we could see that they had a grassland cows, a sugar resource, three peak tiles (ouch!), a lot of jungle, and then some coastal tiles. Unless there was a seafood resource in the ocean (and there wasn't), this was a pretty weak capital city.

To make matters worse, the Templars had not invested in a growth-oriented starting strategy, as we had. While Realms Beyond began with a worker, to make the most of our single food resource, the Templars began by building THREE quechuas, which finished on T8, T17, and T24. During this span, they researched Polytheism, Masonry, and then Monotheism to found two religions in their capital. Thus at the end of the first 30 turns, they had no workers, no settlers, no Bronze Working, and no Animal Husbandry. I have absolutely no idea what in the world they were thinking. You can fool around with religions in Single Player, but going for more than one in a Multiplayer game at the start is pure suicide. The bizarre opening moves from the Templars put them behind from the very outset, forcing them to react to our moves and not vice versa. Our one fear was that they were planning to rush us with their quechuas. But as sooooo put it:

The idea that the Templars are going to quechua rush us is, frankly, ridiculous. I will honestly eat my hat if they do so. Just forget about it.

They are building quechas because they have nothing else to build. They persued religion so have no worker techs and no point in building a worker. They emphasised production presumably because they wanted short term prodution to build enough defence before they started on stonehenge. They really wanted stonehenge so built it before a worker. It's not the world's best plan but they really want that wonder I guess.

mostly harmless agreed with this assessment, using his awesome C&D powers:

Nothing of interest happened in the Templar imperium for a long time. They are definitely not spamming Quechas. They had the potential to build two more Quechas by now, but they did not do that as we would have picked that up from the soldier points in the demoscreen. Jerusalem is due for growth to size 4 on turn 36 based on their current tiles worked. Unless of course they are building a worker or settler. In that case we will see a worker finished on turn 36 or a settler finished on turn 44 the latest. Templars do not yet know Bronze Working. Templars do not have any improved tiles yet (except maybe sea food) nor do they have worker at the moment. Interestingly they have promoted their Quecha south of our capital to shock (? the one that is good against archers). We lawnchair generals in the Ministry of Truth have no idea why they would do that. There is a second promoted Quecha east of our capital. Threat assessment: low - medium

Indeed, if the Templars were planning a rush, it was a spectacularly ineffective one. How could a team open with a beeline for two religions if they were planning to attack?! Anyway, perhaps when the team forums are opened up we'll be able to figure out what they were planning. (It appears as though there may have been some internal team fighting going on.) Whatever was the case, the Templars were off to a very slow start, and that meant advantage: Realms Beyond!

When Bronze Working research finished, we eagerly scanned to map to find our source of copper. Only... there was none to be found anywhere in sight. Seriously, no horses and no copper?!? And bear in mind, we had three scouts out on the map (having popped a third, Doreen, from another hut) and we already had visibility on pretty much the whole western half of our starting continent. The Templars, on the other hand, had both copper and horses slightly to the northeast of their capital, just lovely... While this was depressing news, we knew that we would be guaranteed iron somewhere near the start, because no mapmaker would possibly deprive a team of horses, copper, and iron in a team Multiplayer game. Right? Right?

Meanwhile, our scout Tracy found not one, but two different civs in the east. And surprise, surprise, the "yellow civ" was located across a narrow expanse of water on the eastern continent!

The blue civ was Imperio, and the yellow civ was PAL. Thus we found that we were sharing our starting continent with Templars and Imperio, leaving PAL, Rabbits, and Banana as the three on the eastern continent. We initiated diplomacy with both teams, finding Imperio to be mostly nonresponsive (although they were actually a team of Spanish speakers, which made things difficult). We hit things off a lot better with PAL, and began tentatively making plans for some tech exchanges in the future. However, with Alphabet still many turns away, for the moment our attention was on the dealings in the south, with our Templar neighbors.

As our capital of Airstrip One approached size 3 and got ready to start a settler, I made the case for us planting our first city down in the south, in a bold landgrab:

I will continue to make the case for the southern spot, as seen in this [above] picture.

Yes, using a Sirian-esque Pink Dot for good luck. It's the best location I see anywhere within reasonable distance. Two food resources, lots of hills for production, on a plains hill for defense, and mostly seals off the southern area for our later settlement. (I sketched in the level 3 borders in yellow to demonstrate.) The white dots are some doodles that could possibly become cities much later on, if the Templars decide not to contest our control of this region. It's a bold move, but where else are we going to go? Much of our surroundings are desert and plains tiles. If we just retreat back into our starting penninsula, we're giving up on the game before it even begins.

I would move our two current warriors down into this southern region, and use the one in production, our third, to guard the capital. We can discuss what to build in the second city when/if we found it, but should we get the pink spot, I would consider opening with worker -> barracks -> military pump, focusing on commerce at the capital and shields at the second city. That usually seems to be a good combo in Civ4...

* * * * * * * * * * *

Here's the most important thing to keep in mind: we know that we have few (one!) military units. The Templars don't know this. We know pretty much everything about them. They know little to nothing about us. For all they know, we have archers and warriors all over the place. Unless they have their own Ministry of Truth, I highly doubt they have any idea what military force we have. This allows us to run a calculated bluff, and go swipe their best territory away from them while they fiddle around with silly wonders. You don't win games by playing not to lose. The point of taking a Creative civ was to use our early border-popping to maximum advantage. We MUST get down there and lay claim to that fine southern region.

Fortune favors the bold.

That was my plan of action, and I was successful in taking the rest of the team along with me on this mad venture. Remember, no horses, no copper, moving to settle right into the teeth of a civ that would soon have BOTH early game resources, plus a unique unit that countered archers, the best unit we could build! Pure insanity. And yet what else could we do? As I said at the time, waiting and sitting around on our starting peninsula would only ensure a position of irrelevancy in this game. We absolutely had to get to that land down in the south, and with the Templars busy falling on their own swords with pointless religious stuff, we actually had the ability to do it. Remember, possession is 90% of the law in this game!

The build order in Airstrip One was therefore three warriors after the starting worker, while growing to size 3, then on to a settler while working the cows, a grassland hill mine, and a plains hill mine. We sent two warriors south to guard the settler on its daring journey to the south, keeping the third one back to protect the capital. First, we defogged the tiles on the approach route to prevent any barbs from spawning:

(No, there are no copper or horse resources anywhere in that screenshot!) Using our warriors for cover, we danced around the Templar quechua in the area, taking care always to have the settler in a position where it couldn't be attacked. But look at the crazy road work that we would need to carry out just to connect this city to our empire!

This is one of Ruff's pictures, with Templar quechuas circled in red and the future road to Pink Dot marked with green dots. EIGHT road tiles needed, my goodness! To help in this endeavor, we had gone immediately on to a second worker after the settler in Airstrip One, assisted by a forest chop. The Templars were surely not pleased by our actions, but we did successfully grab Pink Dot, founding the city on T44. What a beautiful location!

Of course, now we had to defend our land grab against an irritated Templar team, which had the potential to take the city with ease if they got aggressive with settling their copper and horses. It was time for the diplomacy side of the game to kick into high gear. The Templars came out firing away at us:

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Dear Ruff,

We feel we need to contact your team urgently because of your plans of building a new city south of your capitol. We realize that it is every team's right to build new cities, and we have no intention at all, to deny you that right, but we do question the wisdom of your current settlement plan. Likewise, your team is not obliged to inform its neighbors of any settlement plans, but in some cases it is perhaps better to do so. We find it peculiar that you have not informed us and attempted to settle in secrecy while we have a quecha nearby. We are deeply concerned and alarmed by the unexpectedness of your move and we are considering how to respond. In great part this depends on your reply.

The mapmaker placed our civs close to each other and we have to live with that, but we assume that you understand that the territory between our capitols is for that reason a disputed one. Your decision to settle straight into the direction of our capital is in that light remarkable. What do we have to think of it? Is it an act of agression, a forward base from which to deploy units?

We ask ourselves what we have done wrong to deserve agression? Or do we perhaps misunderstand intentions you have as of yet not communicated to us? We have peaceful intentions, especially with your people, and would like to continue the mutually beneficial ad-hoc cooperation that has characterized our relations since the start. If possible, we would love to enter in more formal cooperation, but we have so far waited to announce this, trusting on the aforementioned ad-hoc cooperation.

We certainly hope that we will not have to resort to military means to solve this problem.

We urge you, in the name of peace, friendship and our good intentions to your team to respond to this message as soon as possible, at least before next turn, and to propose a solution to the problem at hand. Let us please continue the cooperation thusfar and possibly expand it.


Foreign Affairs Minister of the Knights Templar

Oh yeah, that got their attention all right! Now we had to spin things enough to make sure that the Templars didn't come after us. In poker terms, we were running a huge bluff, and had to ensure that they didn't call us on it! We started spinning for all our worth, talking things out as a team, and eventually came up with this response:

Realms Beyond to Templars:
Sir Aidun,

Thanks for reaching out regarding our settler and presentation of your concerns. Firstly, this is not an aggressive act, it is not intended to be read as an aggressive act and (truth be told) our team has tried very hard to ensure that it is not observed as an aggressive act.

I'm sure you have discovered by now that our continent is fairly small; there are few directions that we could move our settler that would NOT be towards your capital. Also, we have quite a number of scouts out and have a good view of the land. The land to our North is (by and large) a ice wasteland. The land to our West and East has some attractions but nothing major. The land to our South, while towards your Capital, does hold our desired second city site. We have specifically identified a site that contains no strategic resources (metal, horses, stone, ivory, marble) so as to pose as small a threat as possible. Again, our actions are not designed to be an aggressive act in any way.

We too have peaceful intentions, thus the careful site selection and the attempt to open discussion with you. It gladdens us that you have responded so quickly rather than the usual response time that we have grown accustom to with you.

Regarding our settler movement, our original movement plan would have put him on flat ground next to your quecha for a turn and we didn't want to test our friendship in such a way.

Finally, we expected that your first expansion would be towards the strategic resources to your North East and that the site we have selected was not in dispute.

Regarding the future: your communication implies that we should be sharing our plans with you? Personally, I'm not convinced that you actually meant this, but my Team has asked for clarification. Truth be told, members of my team were actually very upset about this statement and there were heated comments about "are we meant to be there vassal?". Some saner heads poured water on this but I was asked to ask for clarification.

Also, some members of my team raised the possibility of a non-aggressive pact between our two teams. We would like to discuss this with you, including the meaning of 'non-aggression', the pact timetable, renewal options, etc.

I didn't know how true this was when I wrote it but ... beginnings can be difficult times.


Your Voice to the Realms Beyond Team

This message was rather disingenous on our part (although that's all part of the game, right?) We didn't intend Pink Dot to serve as forward base for an early rush, but it was definitely an aggressive move nonetheless. Similarly the talk about grabbing a location that didn't have resources was pure BS; we wanted that location regardless, and it simply happened not to have metals or horses there. And the talk about "are we meant to be there vassal?" was a complete fabrication on our part, with no such feelings whatsoever. (I told Ruff to leave in the unintentional misspelling of "their/there", which I found hilarious!)

So how did we do with our attempt at a bluff?

Templars to Realms Beyond:
Dear Ruff,

Thank you for your very informative letter, the information has provided us a better understanding of the situation and especially how your team has also considered our interests when deciding on the location of your new city. First in this letter I want to address two issues with respect to the current situation. Second, I will touch upon your suggestions for future cooperation.

One thing I wish to clarify now already is that my team does not demand that you share (all) your plans with us. We do not expect such from an equal and fully sovereign neighboring team. What I have tried to say, and which I should perhaps have clarified better, is that in some occasions, depending on your own judgement, not ours, you might want to share information about your plans, on your own initiative, not per our request. The same is true for us. Such sharing of information between our teams could have avoided the little crisis we have at this moment, and will likely help to avoid potential future crises.

We suppose your intention is to settle on the hill towards which your settler seems to be heading, to build a city that has the combined benefits of the cow and rice. We would rather see that you would settle closer to your capital, but that decision is not up to us. Despite your explanation, we still think that your plan to build your new city far to the south challenges us in a way we had not expected from your team. We will, however, not respond to it militarily.

As a solution to the crisis you have offered a Non Agression Pact. We think this is a good initiative, but it does not really solve the issue of the land problem. Therefore we think such a NAP should be accompanied by a border agreement as well, so we can evenly divide the land on this island. There is, however, a problem: we do not have full information about the land that surrounds you, mainly to the west and southeast. We need such information first before we can sign a border agreement and a NAP.

The general issue of settlement and land of course plays against the background of competition on this island and the chances of winning in the game. Just like yourselves we cannot afford a neighboring team, no matter how friendly, to get more and better land than we (can) get. We also cannot afford them to build cities on strategic spots. That whole matter would be less a problem when this friendly neighboring team would be a long-term ally, perhaps for the rest of the game. Under such conditions, we would profit from the well-bing of our ally, for which land division and settlement are essential. Such an alliance would take more or less the shape our cooperation has taken so far, only in a more coordinated way. Besides, we would agree to defend each other in case one of us is attacked by another team. The goal of the alliance would be to turn the current competition between our civs in a structured cooperation from which we can both benefit more than the current competition. My team would be positive to such an alliance and we would like to hear your ideas regarding it.

Beginnings can be difficult times indeed, very true and well written.


Sir Aidun
Foreign Affairs Minister of the Knights Templar

Success! The key line was in the third paragraph: "Despite your explanation, we still think that your plan to build your new city far to the south challenges us in a way we had not expected from your team. We will, however, not respond to it militarily." Score! We pushed our chips to the center with a 9/3 offsuit and got the Templars to fold with their pair of jacks. Just the way we planned it. We knew exactly what they were doing thanks to great scouting and C&D stat-crunching, then used it to bluff to our advantage. As I said at the time, "Possession is 90% of the law. Whether they like it or not, the Templars are just going to have to deal with our presence in the south."

(Seriously, check out how ambitious Pink Dot truly was! "Bold" barely even begins to describe it.) Our initial plan had therefore gone off successfully, but the game was just getting started. We would soon find out that the Templars were the least of our worries in this Demogame...