I finally ran into Robb in one of our asynch multiplayer games and I sent him a declaration of friendship request. He ignored it because he's mean. I saw it was still pending when my turn came back around so I bugged him about it on Skype. He wanted to know what it meant and I didn't have a good answer other than I wanted to be friends. I'm Venice and can't build settlers so we have nothing to get into a conflict over anyway so we might as well be friends, right? Snuggles then chimed in and asked what it would actually do. We didn't know so we did some internet searching to try to find out. Pretty much everything we found was related to AI diplomacy so other than allowing research agreements it doesn't seem to do anything in multiplayer.
As part of my searching I somehow ended up in a thread on some message board where people were posting about being good at multiplayer Civ V and were posting links to games that were streamed as evidence to back up how good they were. I watch streams of games all the time... So I figured I'd check out one of these Civ V games and see what was up. I picked one at random and put it up on the tv while doing web surfing yesterday.
The first thing I noticed, completely unrelated to Civ, is how bland a game stream is without commentary. Six and a half hours of some guy playing Civ V without saying anything about what he's doing or why is pretty tame. I definitely spent more time not paying attention than I do even watching something like Feasel grind monsters for 6 hours in Dragon Warrior 1. Something to keep in mind if I ever get streaming myself... Talking is important for entertainment.
The big strategy thing I picked up doesn't apply to the games I'm playing. This game was played live, and they had it set up so even at war the game was playing simultaneously. (I gave up on playing life pretty quickly because our games forced the games to be turned based when players were at war... I wonder if that was just a setting we missed or something added in an expansion we couldn't use because people didn't own them.) The key to winning seemed to be unit micro more than anything else. A unit will die to 3 ranged attacks... If you move it out after the other guy clicks 2 ranged attacks and before he gets to the 3rd that's great for you. If your guy dies instead it's terrible. So it felt like you needed a smaller army to win a fight as long as you were good with it. Oh, and they were using all level ups on the 50 health heal instead of on abilities. Using that in real time seems really strong!
There were a couple things the guy did that were interesting. I don't know why he did them, because he wasn't talking, but they seemed like things to think about. The first was the way he used trade routes. He didn't send a single one to another player. He sent a couple to nearby city states that wouldn't need to go through anything but his own borders but mostly he used them between his own cities to deliver food and resources. I'd never really done this since I always seem to desperately need the gold from external trade routes but the numbers seemed really big. And something I didn't realize until recently is calling it a trade route is a real misnomer. You don't ship off some of your food. You stay the same. You magically generate food out of thin air and send it to your other city. This guy founded a second city early (he built scout, scout, settler I think) right beside his capital. Like, 4 squares away. He had both cities build granaries, and caravans, and ship food to each other. The cities got silly big in a real hurry! He stuck on 2 cities until he built the national college wonder then plopped down 2 more cities and altered the trade routes to feed food to those cities and they very quickly built up in size.
You do lose a bunch of gold using these trade routes over external trade routes... Or at least you would if those trade routes would actually work. Against the AI I can reasonably expect the trade routes to survive as long as I get rid of nearby barbarians. Against other players? Why is Robb going to let Dave and I each score up 5 gold per turn when he can click a button and scoop up 100 gold for himself? Presumably that would make us both mad and we'd try to kill him? But it's a lot easier to believe that a human could make an opportunistic grab for plunder money that an AI would ignore. (This is a real concern for me in one of our games since I'm Venice and get double trade routes but no extra cities... I can't trade with myself!)
The next interesting thing he did was he had preset plans for what he was going to do. He built a bunch of composite bowmen and hid them around one of his cities. Then he raced to machinery while saving up gold and instantly upgraded 5 of them the turn he got it and set off on a direct course for an enemy capital. He should have taken it but he screwed up his micro badly and didn't leave himself a way to actually walk into a city at 0 hp. It really reminded me of watching StarCraft 2 more than a strategy game since it looked a lot like a timing push set up to get blink and a few stalkers or a bunch of marines with stim or something like that.
Later on he did the same thing with artillery, only this time he set it up by saving up several great scientists and the last turn of his national university wonder to time out getting 3 or 4 techs in one turn. He blew right up to artillery in the blink of an eye and went back for the city he failed to get earlier. This time being able to attack from 3 squares away was enough to blow his opponent out. And then he blew everyone else out because his 5 cities just built units for every turn for the rest of the game.
Saving up great scientists to maximize every last lightbulb from them is not something I'd considered doing before. Build a land improvement or just use them right now were my options. But I guess storing up a bunch to get a specific crucial tech is important? Or maybe it's mostly important for the surprise factor? I imagine people who play a lot understand what tech % lines up with an artillery rush so if no one is near that number you have nothing to worry about. But when you get 4 techs in one or two turns your number is going to really spike!
Another interesting thing was the way he abused city states. And not in the sense of getting allies with powerful effects or going down the patronage tree... No, he was stealing things from them. He camped an early spearman beside a city state, waited for it to spawn a worker, and then stole it. Immediately went to peace. The city state was mad, of course, but it wasn't coming to kill him and he was up an early worker. He got another worker the same way, so he had 3 workers working on his 2 cities but only actually built one of them. Later on he was stealing money from the city state by bulling them. I've never bullied a city state, so I had to go look up the mechanics. It seems you pretty much need to be #1 on soldiers in the game, or near the top of the list anyway, and have a large army around the city state. But if you do then they'll give you 250 gold every 10 turns. That seems pretty hot, especially if you're using your trade routes all internally.
At one point he took the honour policy for a free great general. That seemed weird since he had 3 in his army already. But then he started aggressively stealing land and defending his artillery by building a steady stream of the defensive buildings. Seemed pretty strong!
Oh, and I got an answer to my question of what good is a declaration of friendship... It isn't. The early rush with the crossbowmen? It was on someone the streamer had a declaration of friendship with. And the target was _really_ bitter about it, too. So what does a declaration of friendship actually mean? I guess it depends on the players. Just like in the game Diplomacy...