Monday, June 09, 2014

Civ V: Diplomatic Victory

I was chatting yesterday a bit with Robb about the game state in one of our asynch Civ V games. The one where the evil Dave eliminated Robb early. I have a plan for trying to win in a tricky fashion in that game, but I'm pretty sure it's bad. I'm going to try it anyway because it seems fun and I want to see what happens but it just feels like suddenly making 28 tourism per turn isn't actually going to be a realistic threat. Robb was wondering how the other people would react when I grab the final piety policy and unlock that tourism ability and my gut feeling is Dave wouldn't care because he's in a dominating position to win diplomatically. We talked a bit about how that works because Robb wasn't aware of a couple of mechanics that ultimately snowball the council into an inevitable win. I don't really know how it all works either... So it's time to look into it and figure out just how inevitable the inevitable is. Do Matt and I have any response beyond trying to sneak a faster win or somehow trying to kill Dave off despite being on different continents?

The first thing to dig into is the inevitability factor. Eventually you reach the point in the game (when 1 civ hits the atomic era or half the civs hit the modern era) where the council starts letting you vote for someone to win. There's a flat threshold of how many votes are needed and if no one gets that many votes then the top two get given 2 more votes for all subsequent council actions. Including the next victory vote. We're playing a quick game so I believe that means a victory vote will happen every 13 turns once they start happening. I honestly have no idea how many votes are needed to win. I read 60% of base votes from living civs/city states which would put our game at needing 22 votes but I loaded up a saved game from a single player game on a huge world and it only needed 22 votes so I really don't know anymore. And I can't seem to find out! I even went and installed an SQL plug-in for Firefox and went digging around in the core database for the game to try to find the formula but couldn't find it. I did go load up the game and the victory conditions screen claims 34 votes to win. That's a lot more than 22. So something funky is going on... (I also checked a 6 player game on a larger map and it needs 40 to win... Maybe it's based on map size and gets lowered as civs/city states die?)

And I think this all means there are lots of ways to get extra votes that don't increase the number needed to win. Hosting the council is worth +2. Owning the Forbidden Palace wonder is worth +2. Getting a world religion is worth +2. Getting a world ideology is worth +2. There's a tech far down the tree that gives you +1 for each of your diplomats. Dave already has the Palace so right now he has 4 votes to my 1 and Matt's 1. He also has the most city state allies so when they start giving votes he will likely continue to have more than we do together. This means he gets to pass whatever he wants, in particular the world religion and world ideologies. So when we hit the atomic era I fully expect him to have 12 votes on his own, 2 per city state, and 2 per time he fails to win. So if he has 11 allies he's apt to win the very first time the council meets to vote a winner. He has 8 right now, so he's not really going to need to get the late game tech or many of the pity votes.

How can this be stopped? Well, we can take his city state allies as a start. But he declared war on us which means the city states also declared war on us. We can't just do quests and pay them money anymore. There are really only two ways left to remove his allies. We can kill them, or we can stop using our spies to catch up in tech and start using them to try to rig elections. Killing the city states doesn't even help much. We deny Dave 2 votes but we (maybe?) knock 1.2 votes off the number needed to win. It's a gain, but it's not much of one. The best bet there would actually be for me to conquer a city state and then let Matt conquer it back and liberate it. That would restore it as a city state but with Matt as the ally, not Dave. So it would deny Dave 2 votes and keep the number needed to win constant. But I think it forces Matt and I to fight, which kills trading, and that's really bad. So maybe that could be a desperation move, but I don't like it much. Besides, if I'm going to actually beat up a city state, I want to own it myself!

How about rigging elections? How does that work? I know you can park them in a city state and then every so often (15 turns in a normal game so probably 10 turns in a quick game) the city state will hold elections and the best spy present will get to get some influence for his civ and lower the influence of everyone else. If we lower Dave below the alliance level then presumably we can make peace and spend the cash to buy the city state as an ally ourselves. But when you're at war you're always listed at -60 influence... So does rigging elections in this case even help? Will we stay at -60 after peace is declared or will we go back to our real amount? I don't know. The other thing you can do is try a coup. It has very low odds of success but if it works it flips your influence with the other player's influence. So we'd become the ally straight up instead of Dave. Failure kills off your spy. You get a new one again after a few turns but they lose any levels they might have. It seems like a bit of a desperation play but I guess it'd be worth a shot if it came right down to it.

Another possibility is to attack the other sources of his votes. Conquer the city that built the Forbidden Palace. Use an army of great prophets to convert away all his cities so he's no longer following the world religion. Bring Robb back into the game to increase the number of votes needed to win. (If that is even actually part of the formula... Man I wish I could find it!)

Or we can try to win even faster. It seems inconceivable to win a science victory because of how deep you need to go beyond the atomic era to pull that one off. Even if Dave needs 3 or 4 failed votes to win he gets that to happen in ~50 turns. You need 15 techs in atomic or above era to get a science victory, and then you need to still build the last part. No, science seems right out unless we really cut down on his external sources of votes. Culture might be possible, and it's certainly where my hat is hung, but Dave makes so much culture per turn I actually can't imagine winning this way. Not without the internet, anyway, and it's also far in the information era.

That just leaves military. It doesn't much matter if it's a full military victory or just removing Dave and then having Matt and I duke it out for science/culture. But it feels like keeping the status quo means Dave wins a diplomatic victory.

I'm not sure if I like this. I hate board games with a front runner issue. Dave did well early so now he needs to die? Do we really need to play Civ V in a way that we never seem like enough of a threat to be ganged up on? Do we need to be in 2nd place so when the world gangs up on the leader we can swoop in for the win? Do we need to always be capable of winning a defensive war against all the other players?

Though for all I know there's something going on such that Dave won't just win a diplomatic victory. For all I know his massive tech lead actually means he _is_ capable of winning a defensive war against all the other players, especially since all the other players in this case is just two people on different islands. And if beating up a city state doesn't decrease the number of votes needed he may actually be barely containable, though he will still get to decide all the council votes on his own.

I am a little less worried about Dave instantly winning now than I was when I thought it was going to be 22 votes to win. But I am just as worried about the inevitable win because 2 extra votes every 13 turns will close the gap between 22 and 34 in only 78 turns, and I think he was going to overshoot 22 easily. We'll just have to wait and see what happens I guess!

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