One-horse space-race   Leave a comment

Opportunity is nothing without ability.

On Saturday I played Civ V.

Sadly, you don’t get off that easily. Neither did I.

In the morning, I couldn’t play for too long, because I’d agreed to go riding. It was a pleasant, sunny, chilly ride. Sam was easily caught again (even without obvious treat bribery), and was very good all the way ’round, whilst Wilf was a bit silly at times. We just sat and watched him do silly dances. Mostly I was completely oblivious to the world, though.

After that I could return to Civ V, at least until my sister brought her computer over so I could make its microphone work. Her machine runs Ubuntu, and I know nothing about Ubuntu (beyond installing it, but that’s the easy part), so I’m not sure why she turns to me for help. But, alas, she does. And it was actually very easy to fix; just a quick fiddle in the audio settings, as I’d suggested over the ‘phone. Hey ho.

But then, back to Civilization V. That’s what I really want to write about.

As I’ve mentioned, the plan was to build a space-ship and shuttle a bunch of undesirables intrepid adventurers off to Alpha Centauri, so that they can play a game that was released years ago. Or something. All I had to do was research maybe ten technologies, build the Apollo Program and the space-ship bits, and assemble it in the capital. No worries.

Well, one worry: yon Frenchies. None of the other civilizations could catch or threaten me, but the tricorned gent with the fancy coat and dobbin could be a problem. He was only a few techs behind me research-wise, his military outnumbered mine (and seemed to have been upgraded more recently), but those things weren’t really what concerned me. I channeled everything I could into technology, built some advanced units just in case somebody got bolshy, and used my considerable financial muscle to pay for research treaties with the other nations (sometimes I had to pay my bill, part of their bill, and bribe them to take it out. Expensive!).

What I was really worried about was that Napoleon had more friends than me. AND IN THE GAME. At one point he had eleven of the city-states as his allies. So what? Well, when you get most of the way up the tech tree, you can build the United Nations, which starts a vote for the diplomatic victory. Each nation and city-state gets one vote, and in my game you needed ten votes to win outright. So, if Bony got the tech and built the building before I could either launch my space-ship or bribe enough of his allies to get him to fewer than ten votes, I’d lose.

It promised to be a tense endgame. I charged up the tech tree, aided by a few lucky Great Scientists appearing and a load of research treaties, every turn expecting the notification that the United Nations had been built. Once I’d got the techs I needed, everything got channeled into money, for bribery, and production, to build the remaining space-ship parts.

And in the end… Augustus Caesar launched a starship to Alpha Centauri in 1959. The United Nations wasn’t built. I needn’t have worried.

It was quite the anti-climax.

I don’t know how the French managed it; they were only a few techs behind me, and (to the best of my knowledge) had the research muscle to beeline to the UN, the production muscle to get it constructed, and the friends to win the first vote. Unfortunately you can’t see what they’re building or researching, even at the end of the game, so I don’t know whether they were being slow or stupid. But it made it feel like they just weren’t trying.

That was my second game, the first being the tutorial, on the top non-cheating difficulty, after a whole heap of patches have shored up the AI. I certainly wasn’t playing optimally, and didn’t figure out a lot of tricks until the Middle Ages or Renaissance. I was outstripping most of the AIs in most respects, and I won with 91 years left on the clock. It was a shame.

I want to play the game more; I like it in pretty much every other way, and maybe I just got lucky and the AIs were crippled somehow? But not today.

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