Freeciv Web Game 41: The Yugoslav Micaenean reenactment

This is the final report of the Freeciv Web Game 41 that I have played during the past four months. It was one of the most fun games I have played in a long time which is surprising for several reasons: the FCW ruleset is not very well balanced and overgrown in the wrong directions, and in this particular game I probably got the worst starting position in a long-turn game ever. However, the ruleset itself is functional and if you know the basics, you can get by if you are ok if you have no ambition to be a top player.

When I joined the game and saw that I am stranded on the island of Crete with three settlers and no boats, I literallylaughed and said, ok, let's see how this ends up, not really expecting to be alive by mid-game. My third city was delayed I don't know how much, probably a week or more, until I was able to transport it to mainland and the next weeks passed eagerly awaiting for a neighbour's invasion while I'm unprepared for defence and unable to bring enough - or any - reinforcements in time.

Fortunately, my neighbours were friendly and far enough and the fun - reenactment of the Greek expansion across the eastern Mediterranean - could start.

Very soon I met my neighbours - Zelrond in NW Greece/Macedonia and northwards and Zimo in central and eastern Anatolia - and their neighbours, Zimo's ally Varrin (Middle East) and Zelrond's nuisance Kukusse (Pannonia and Vallachia). There was also Lachu occupying East Thrace as the main obstacle of my dream and mid-term goal of turning the Aegean Sea into a Yugoslav lake. I soon made peace with everyone except Kukusse, joined Zimo/Varrin alliance and pulled Zelrond in.

Even though completely uneconomic and ineffecient, maritime expansion across islands and faraway lands was fun. If you don't play to win but play to fun, it's a winning combination. To my surprise and even shock, I realised that Italy was completely unoccupied so I rushed a number of Settlers and started expanding north. I came mid-way when I met Fyrfox, leading the Roman nation, who started in North Africa and was trying to retake his ancestral homelands. So we made a deal and he landed roughly across Elba, but his city was soon conquered by Kukusse whose horsemen roamed the region.

So my expansion north was stalled with an uneasy standoff that lasted for a while because my main lands were far away, reinforcements were slow and the newly founded cities in the southern half of Italy barely able to take care of themselves due to distance from the capital. Eventually I conquered Kukusse's city and realised he hasn't built more in the rear, this was a conquest of opportunity and not a strategic expansion. Still, the frontier was uneasy, I lost a few cities (or rather, the same newly founded city) a few times due to a combination of bad luck, carelessness and stupid decisions but eventually reached the estuary of Po river where things started getting interesting in the later stages of the game. 

In the meantime contact and an uneasy peace with Rain was established, even though he was conquering Fyrfox who joined our alliance. Unfortunately, we had no means to help out (yet), especially because Fyrfox was new to the game and left most of his cities undefended. However, the diplomacy itself slowed down the conquest so in the end Fyrfox was left with Sardinia and Elba, while Varrin's reinforcements transferred from finalized eastern conquests were crucial in saving one city in Africa and the establishment of permanent peace.

And then there was Morridia.

First contact was established through Powerpaul who invaded Lachu and in this way became my neighbour. Lachu was in the way of the already mentioned Aegean Lake dream, but I didn't want to invade him because I don't really do that stuff. However, with Paul's attack, I didn't have a choice and moved in with my forces and conquered two cities. There was some tension with Paul regarding passage through Bosporus and the control of some rich ex-Lachu tiles, but we both realised those things were not worthy of going to war so peace was established. 

Basically, I gave up on any demands because I was in no shape to start another war, nor was interested in it so I let go.

In the east there was the World's Best Diplomat in the shape of Fraz, who was able to antagonise all his neighbours who evenntually crushed him from all sides. Zimo and Varrin were happy to do their part, however, then the Morridia Agony started and it made the finale of the game dull and much less interesting.

Now, if someone is playing a conqueror and simply, when arriving at your borders, crushes you with overwhelming force, that's fine. That's how the game is played and, in the process, you learn-adapt-overcome or die (usually die) and that's it. However, Morridia was special.

Morridia came to be the major superpower in the game. He does know how to play, but was also lucky with the placement and, from what I heard, also for having newbies and idlers as his first neighbours. Also, the Russia/Ukraine plains are heavily disbalanced on this map (which is why we made some modifications to it in LT.net, but we are yet to play it): if you are able to secure yourself, you can grow and expand much more quickly than your opponents. Morridia made the necessary alliances and came on top of everything.

A special title of the Douchebag of the East goes to Gimmy, Fraz's eastern ally, who first screamed "Morridia is coming for us all", then asked for concessions and, after not getting them, threw a fit, decided to put all defences south, against Varrin, and demilitarize his north deliberately allowing Morridia to take his cities without resistance. This brought Morridia to our alliance's northeastern border and this is where the Pain started.

First, on top of getting free cities from Gimmy, he snatched some Fraz cities that Varrin and Zimo were looking at as a prize for their long hardship. Then he tried to push south as much as possible, clawing at every tile like his life depended on it, repeating all the time that, as the strongest player, his reputation will suffer if he simply gives in too much. So in the end he gave nothing and received everything.

The details of the negotiations are too tiresome to repeat and I can't really explain some things even to myself. Morridia could have probably conquered us at that time. He had all the war machine grown in the fertile plains and grasslands of Russia. However, it's questionable what it would bring hims strategically and also, our alliance was spread across a wide area and multiple chunks of land that would be impossible to devour quickly. The war would have lasted much longer, it's difficult to say who would have come to our aid and what would happen in the central Europe where their alliance encountered some more competent foes then the ones previously swallowed. 

Basically, Morridia was so frightened of the attack that, even though we reiterated that we agree on peace, he held more army on our borders than the total we had. So we used our leverage and got promised a peace, understanding that it is highly unlikely we'd be able to survive any other way.

And this cost us our joy that was collectively sucked out of us through negotiations. In the end Zimo quit over frustration and let Varrin and me divide his cities (I got the most because Varrin felt it was too much for him already) and the rest of us decided that we are going to stick it to Morridia any way we can. I even gave him one city simply because I didn't want to deal with the negotiations anymore, basically, "Here, have this city, now please shut up." In the end I directly told him that his "reputation" is now that simply that, due to his stubbornness, I personally will never want to have anything to do with him in any future games and most likely I'm not the only one. 

In short, you can win the game with Morridia or you can have fun playing the game, but you can't have both.

From what I heard, some of his allies felt the same. I guess it's all about priorities.

Over a time of week or two after the negotiations ended we all cooled off a bit, but then Mizca, Morridia ally, broke the peace treaty we thought we agreed on between our alliances, but apparently the other alliance didn't see it that way. Not only that, but he directly attacked us from Morridia's territory making both of them treaty-breakers. Basically, our dimplomacy in those months boils down to:
"Please confirm that you want peace."
"Yes, we want peace."
"Please confirm that you want peace."
"Yes, we still want peace."
"Please confirm that you want peace."
"Yes, we already said it, and declared it won's change, we are not a threat to you, we can't attack you even if we wanted to."
"I need to know that we are at peace."
"Yes, we are at peace, we've been repeating it for months, what more do you want?"
"Fine, now I will allow my ally to attack you from my territory. There is nothing I can do about it, but we are at peace so you mustn't attack me."

This cemented our resolve and, since now we were officially at war, only everybody pretended we were not because it suited us better, we decided to contact Flowerpower and ask how we can help him defeat Morridia. Since Mezca's attack enabled Morridia to conquer some Kukusse's cities both Zelrond and I have been eyeing for a long time, I emptied my northernmost city in Italy and let Rain have it so that he and Flowerpower can fight Morridia directly. 

In the end it amounted to nothing because the industrial powerhouse of the Russian steppes, along with gifted cities, was impossible to push back. This further proves the point: if you get off to a good start, you've won the game early, and the remaining time is only used for everyone else to receive the memo.

So the final weeks of the game went through waiting for the big players to conclude the match. and, for me, it didn't end too soon. Talking to Morridia and looking at his attitude, I was sure he was going to lose, but in the end he pulled it off by building a spaceship. Looking at the map, there was a fair chance Flowerpower would win militarily, but it didn't happen quickly enough.

In the end, like I said, it was fun. The main reason for it was actually the bad, but interesting position I started at. Also, the map was more crowded than in Longturn.net games which warrants for more communication and interaction. What made it less fun, apart from the mentioned interaction with some players, was the technically overcomplicated ruleset - actually the overgrown list of units and wonders that don't add much to the concept of the game, but make it so that you have to choose carefully which combo of wonders you build at which time and turn Freeciv into a collectable wonder game. Although, if you are enjoying it, it may be the thing for you. I myself don't, obviously, but people who prefer CCGs to strategies may actually like it. 

But I didn't mind all this because I didn't really care to win: I'm not sure I have the stomach or the free time to manage more than a hundred cities and hundreds of military units that are usually needed to win the game. The purpose was fulfilled: I played on an interesting map, met new people, made less screenshots than I should have, got some ideas for our own LT games. Will play again... if I am able to :D

Freeciv Web Game 41: The Yugoslav Micaenean reenactment

This is the final report of the Freeciv Web Game 41 that I have played during the past four months. It was one of the most fun games I ...