I decided on a whim to share a screenshot of my main town in my current game as my favorite civilization, the Spanish. I actually planned it out in the scenario editor before starting the game, as I was trying to pack as much into as small of an area as I could, while leaving one grid unit’s width between every building to make it easy for villagers to move around and gather around a building in the event of repair. The only exceptions were farms, which can be immediately adjacent to anything, and towers, which can be adjacent to walls (and, in fact, must be for maximum range radiating from the town). It may not be the best idea from a strategic standpoint to plan my town(s) with this kind of precision and aesthetic eye, but I just can’t resist!
I’m also trying, slowly but surely, to get comfortable with Moderate AI Difficulty. My first several attempts reached a point where it became hopeless, so I decided to tinker with a few other settings to ease myself into it. This is the first game where I actually feel like victory is reasonably within my grasp, though it’s with Medium starting resources and a full hour of initial peace treaty, so it’s a baby step, I suppose.
I find it virtually impossible to keep up with the Moderate AI in age-ups, though I can come close with respect to Feudal. One of the “Advanced Techniques” tutorial campaigns offers a figurative gold medal for going Feudal within 7 minutes. I tried several times in multiple ways. It ain’t happening. I’m lucky to make it by 11 minutes, and 12 - 13 has become typical for me in Moderate games. This is even after I begrudingly gave up my habit of never advancing to the next age until I’d researched every single tech from the current one. Seriously, not researching at least most of them just feels wrong to me, like I haven’t really earned it.
I’m tempted to blame my cerebral-palsy-inhibited reflexes. Being a consistent first-advancer may require lightning-quick moves that I just can’t quite muster. Or maybe that’s just an excuse that enough practice would dispel. I’m not sure. My below-average dexterity does often cause me to overshoot my scrolling when I’m trying to get around on the map, especially when I’m in a hurry, like when I’m being attacked. I’m learning to combat problems like that with hotkeys, though, like the one that takes you to the site of the latest notification.
Strangely, I find that in both Standard and Moderate difficulty, I seem to consistently reach a stage (if I survive long enough in the latter, that is) that I’m starting to call the “PCD,” or “Period of Constant Defense.” This is when, for a few hours of gameplay, the AI just seems determined to keep you busy on defense. Alarm bells every 3 – 5 seconds is not uncommon, and I’m often just shy of fully replenishing that army or repairing that wall when somebody attacks the same area again. In Standard difficulty games and, for the first time, in this particular Moderate one, it’s rarely if ever a serious threat. It just feels like harassment! I want to start mining a new source of gold or stone, repair that castle, start a second town, or maybe even go on the offensive. But I can’t, because I’m being kept just busy enough trying to fend off and then recover from the latest round of often quite lame attempts to get through my fortifications.
Ironically, at least in the current game, it seems like, for all its skill at advancing rapidly, the Moderate AI almost seems to get dumber in the late game. After a few attempts with trebuchets and rams, which I defeated, whoever the red guys are just took to sending regular bands of light cavalry. Seriously, what does the AI think is gonna happen when a half-dozen Hussars and/or unique camel-mounted archers go up against a castle guarded by five bombard cannons with knowledge of Ballistics? They’re gonna get slaughtered, and they do, over and over again! Plus, when they do bring seige equipment, they sometimes use it to attack…houses! They do attack walls, towers, and castles too, but they go after less valuable stuff just often enough to make me wonder what the algorithm is trying to accomplish. Keep me from spawning more soldiers by making me run out of housing? But at this late stage in the game, that’s usually too easy to fix.
I mean, after barely scraping by in several earlier confrontations, I’m certainly not complaining about these seemingly ineffective tactics. I’m just curious and perhaps a bit confused as to what caused the albeit welcome change. In any case, if I was getting in the mood for a challenge, I got one in another enemy who’s decided it’s his turn, and they actually seem a bit more competent. They’ve been sending wave after wave of cavaliers or paladins and cavalry archers against my main army of 30 Paladins and 30 Elite Conquistadors. So far, I’ve been able to beat them off, but they leave me with just enough casualties to make near-constant replenishment necessary. I have 10 Bombard Cannons and 10 Trebuchets now, though my navy needs rebuilding (and Cannon Galleons never seem available to me for some reason, even when I’m Imperial and my civ’s tech tree says I should be able to build them). It may finally be time for some offense! It’ll be my first time in Moderate difficulty.
Wow! That turned out to be a deeper dive than I intended! Here’s hoping at least some of you find it interesting. I’ve spent the past week or so getting re-acquainted with the game after about a decade and a half at least, so I have no idea how my little town measures up, and I’m almost certainly a relative novice in actual strategy, but I thought it might be worth sharing anyway.