I've chosen to step away from the Freeciv community for a bit (left all of the Discord servers except for one invitational game), but I want to continue this conversation. My goal is not to convince you to enjoy MP rulesets, but to demonstrate that there is much strategy beyond micromanagement (although -- I admit -- I am quite fond of micromanagement and in simulating future output of cities because it gives me an advantage).
For context, I *never* go Republic-first in MP2. Every time I have played, I have gone Pottery first, rushed to Monarchy, then Trade, and spent time on laying the foundation for my midgame (switch to Republic sometime between T60-T70) with a production-focused early game. My general strategy (although I have played it flexibly, since context always differs) is as follows:
1. Start a Barracks in the capital city, which is placed such that at size 2 it will be able to have at least +2 food and +10 production (which means 6 base production plus 75% for Despotism) and ideally +2 food and +14 production (8 base + 75%). (Capital on wheat is optimal, but not required. Capital access to coal is very useful.) If these exact breakpoints cannot be met, then plan worker-turns carefully so that I can still execute below.
2. Plant second and third cities (wheat, buffalo, fruit are ideal) and use a scientist immediately in both cities so that I can get Pottery in 4 turns (sometimes 3 turns if +8 bulbs/turn is possible -- but generally 4 turns). Switch Barracks to Granary in capital and immediately purchase with starting gold. Assign the outer cities' tiles so that they begin to grow. (Wheat and fruit city centers for outer cities will allow them to grow during scientist turns, but buffalo city center gets them a head start on Warrior generation for early game defense.)
3. The capital will grow to size 2 with 15/20 foodbox. Time the settler such that when the settler completes, at the end of that turn's food phase the capital will be at 20/20 (which generally means finishing settler at 19/30, going down to 19/20, and using the food income to reach 20/20 and grow to 15/30 size 3 -- I am careful not to end up at 21/20 or 22/20 after food phase because food overflow is wasted). This may take some tile assignment micromanagement. It is worth it, as it saves multiple turns. This trick of finishing settler and then immediately growing again is something I will use many, many times during the Monarchy phase, especially after I have Pyramids.
4. Time the second (or third, depending) settler such that the capital is at size 3 30/40 so that it bounces back to size 3 20/40. Extra shields can be turned into warriors, or I can disband an explorer to make up for food-focus. By paying attention to the food and production, one can produce settlers efficiently with minimal loss of capital population. Inefficient settler timing can cost 20, 30, etc food, while efficient settler timing with a granary costs 5, 10, etc food. This rapid production of settlers is key, since I need my cities to all be size 3 or 4 at the same time.
First key tech is Monarchy. In most situations, it is efficient to use scientists heavily in the early game because the removal of tile penalties pays itself off very quickly. Monarchy should be reached T25-T30 depending on terrain, which is generally considered early (I've been among the first few to leave Despotism in each game).
The second key tech is Trade, but there's a balancing act here, because in order to play efficiently, three things need to be true at the same time: 1. all cities need to be size 3 or 4, 2. Hanging Gardens needs to be up as fast as possible so that cities will celebrate for the bonus trade on trade-income tiles (+2 happy to all cities), 3. multiple cities need to be at above 30/40 on Settlers which will all be converted to Caravans on the turn Trade finishes so that HG goes up immediately. Done correctly, this gives me the extremely high production and econ (top 1-3 in both categories consistently, I can post demographics screenshots if you wish -- also research leader for much of the early game). Note that I still have to produce workers, warriors, and granaries (cities which have only +1 surplus in Despotism, like a gold mountain city center, will get granaries on the same turn they go to size 2, so I have to plan out every shield -- to finish a unit on that turn with at least 1 overflow -- and every piece of gold). Falling behind on workers is death. Finding the right balance between workers, warriors, and caravans in this early stage requires a lot of planning, and every worker-turn is precious (I overlap my cities for better worker-turn efficiency in the early game -- it requires some micromanagement to share tiles, and it hurts me a bit during the rapture phase, but it is worth it).
Once I have a bunch of size 3/4 celebrating Monarchy cities and have very healthy production and econ, the strategy deviates. I can play aggressively to take more territory (UR2), or double down on granary-settler micromanagement to increase my city count. Either way, this runs into the first strategic issue of happiness management in MP2: the 12th city will make all of my size 4 cities stop celebrating (12 in Monarchy, 14 in Republic) because the 4th citizen will become unhappy. The easiest way to deal with this is a warrior for military police, but green warriors are not good for much else, and those warriors will simply sit at home until much later when they are upgraded to Musketeers by Leonardo's Workshop. A temple solves the problem for 30 shields (60 gold) -- but I want that gold for Granaries and a Library or two (Scientist-focused cities) and I can only utilize half the temple in any city that wants to stay celebrating (size 5 is to be avoided). This means many cities may need to remain at size 3 instead of 4, although some production-focused cities can lose celebration without much loss. These decisions are on a city-by-city basis.
There are multiple options for early game wonders, taking advantage of my high-production playstyle -- I have consistently been the first or second to each key wonder which allows me to keep a good pace through the early game. Alongside HG, a combination of Temple of Artemis (+1 prod, lux, gold, science for all cities with Temples), Marco Polo (+40% trade to all cities), and Supreme Court (half corruption, +1 free upkeep, and no tile penalty during Anarchy turn(s) later) will reliably get me through the early game with an extremely healthy economy. At some point I will allow cities to grow above size 4 at the correct time that I can get to 4 lux in those cities with 10% slider, allowing me to celebrate cities at size 6 (I *never, ever* allow lux% slider to go above 10% until I get Railroad, and then never above 20% -- the lux slider is your enemy). I do not switch to Republic until after I have Eiffel Tower (from Steam Engine, for another free upkeep unit in every city) around T65-T70. I maintain top 1-3 research as a Monarchy reliably -- in G25 I was #1 or #2 research with a 20% science slider because of my reliance on Scientists and Libraries in key cities -- I needed the gold for buildings (granaries, temples, marketplaces, libraries) and accelerated caravans/workers!
This is an extremely simplified explanation of my early game. There are a lot more considerations that go into each element, and the diplomatic angle is important as well. I define the midgame as being the Gunpowder/Steam Engine era, so I don't begin rapturing until the midgame with this definition. In G25 my goal was to avoid rapture entirely, but I made some optimization mistakes and was unable to keep pace -- fortunately I had the correct foundation for rapture play, since I was already optimized for celebration to have an economically-healthy Monarchy. If I were to explain my full strategy for G25 early game, we would be here for hours. (Protip: with Pyramids up, a size 5 city with base 37/50 foodbox will create a settler every 3 turns without losing pop at +1 food and +14 production. I settled a "core" city that could rapid-produce settlers and triremes, while still growing, on each island.)
To pre-empt a criticism: yes, I am focused on the numbers. Anyone who wants to win an LT game will pay attention to the numbers as well. Playing a game well means understanding and utilizing its mechanics. There is more to Freeciv than combat and diplomacy, although nobody can win just by making their numbers bigger. In UR2 I had the biggest numbers -- Trumpian "huge" numbers -- but lost because I made severe diplomatic errors due to inexperience. In G25 I corrected for those mistakes while still paying attention to the numbers, and I was able to win the game with competent allies and competent opposition.
To respond to your statements:
Note the difference between "food" and "access to food tiles". Yes, of course, you want to place your city on a good spot, but with rapture, you make less decisions, most of the time you run on auto-pilot. No general strategy, just some spreadsheet-maintenance.
Rapture governments are gated by having sufficient economy to afford essential buildings, correct timing of marketplaces / banks / temples / libraries / harbors (and so on) -- buying libraries without Scientists or a high sci% is a waste of gold, so you want to buy marketplaces to help celebrate and produce the gold to buy other infrastructure, but you also need the bulbs to have the tech to unlock the buildings you need, and all this with less production and thus fewer workers/caravans -- this is exactly why I don't go Republic-first. Sure, in the late game it's all about having +1 food and celebration. A LOT
of shields/caravans end up invested into having the infrastructure for empire-wide celebration. Literally an army's worth.
To make it more clear: with no rapture, you depend on ratio between food, production and trade. If you push all to food in order to boos your city, production and trade will suffer (and you can still do some fine-tuning between production and trade).
Yes, this is my experience for the first 70 turns of the game. As I outlined above, I do this quite well. You're leaving out an equally important attribute: happiness, as I intend to have almost every city celebrating every single turn as a Monarchy as well. Also to note: foodboxes are smaller in LT and you get granaries for free until size 4, so you have to focus on food less than I do as an MP2 Monarchy.
With a rapture ruleset, you don't have to make this decision. The only food requirement is that it's +1, nothing else, so you set your food as close to that and concentrate everything else to production and trade.
I quite often find myself in a position where 2 or 3 cities are sharing a grassland, pheasant, wheat, or fruit tiles that they need to hit rapture qualification while still having sufficient shield or trade output (depending on surrounding tiles). Being able to starve these cities without losing population is important for my dense-cities playstyle, so I often rapture at more than +1 food in order to build up a surplus when possible. Based on my demographics results, I think this is a wise decision. But yes: rapture governments shift much of the food focus into luxury focus instead, as happiness management becomes very tricky. You play a ruleset which has easier food targets and less early-game gold required to accelerate food growth (unlike many MP2 players, I buy a great deal of granaries in the early game, precisely because
I focus on food as a Monarchy).
If citizens are happy, all you need is positive food. You don't need to "balance" it between, say, +1 and +10, the effect remains exactly the same.
Keep in mind that with MP2, you have fewer workers (slower start, with slower-growing cities), workers don't get veterancy, workers have less movement points, etc. It is entirely non-trivial to get a reliable +1 food during the rapture phase without totally fucking yourself up in a different way. If it were as easy as you seem to say, I wouldn't see so many players completely screw it up. You're trivializing a very difficult balancing act just because +1 is a small number.
If only this was a discussion about who is a better player. Unfortunately, it is not.
It has turned a wide-scale multilevel grand strategy into a narrow-minded obsessive-compulsive tile flipping to get the maximum out of your cities and then steamroll over your opponents with sheer numbers.
If I learned anything from UR2, where I had absolutely incredible demographics (#1 econ, #1 prod, #1 research at the same time at multiple points in the game, doing *all* of the research for a 6-person alliance without dropping development pace -- T70 Monarchy, mind you) it's that sheer numbers do not win games. It has not "turned" from one thing into another. It is still wide-scale multilevel grand strategy -- I still have to do all the geopolitics, combat, intelligence-gathering, empire-wide planning, terrain flexibility, etc that is key to the 4X genre. I just get to also partake in, as you say, "obsessive-compulsive tile flipping". It's quite fun. Who doesn't like having bigger numbers?
repetitive task of reassigning your workers in every fucking one of your dozens of cities for every fucking turn
This isn't a rapture thing. I do this as a Monarchy as well. I want to hit specific targets at specific times, get 1-shield overflow on the exact turn I need to buy a granary/marketplace/harbor/whatever, manage scientist usage to save a turn or two on a key tech, etc. This is just a good player thing. I am told that with enough familiarity with the native client, similar micromanagement is possible without the same time investment. I recommend learning it.
But if you really succeed in showing that Pyramids/Monarchy/Communism trumps rapture, then you may actually be onto something.
Thanks. I think I'm pretty close. There were some errors that I made in G25 that hurt my ability to keep pace as a Monarchy all the way to Communism, but I think it is possible if I play correctly. Once in Communism, a whole new array of micromanagement becomes available -- I've already theorycrafted some ways to keep pace with rapture governments, using intentional starvation in big cities and proletarians produced from small cities (literally just the migrant trick from LT).
There is only one problem. If that happens, it will only further the streamlining of the game and further create the need for players to go down a narrow passage, no swerves, no detours, no forks, of creating alliances that will distribute tasks depending on their location: the border ones will do the rough part to secure the first half of the game and the central ones will be safe to to rapture to carry the grand finale. So now there will not be just one path to take, but two, and you don't get to choose which one you take.
None of this follows from the above. There are a variety of ways to play the game. I've already demonstrated that there are many ways to play the early game (T1-T70). If your point is that players in an alliance should choose different strategies and priorities based on their geopolitical situation, then please explain how this is different in LT (it's basic strategy for anyone who wants to win a team game). It would be really dumb if players did not do this. Your lack of understanding of how to play MP2 leads to your simplified understanding of its metagame and to claims like this which are inconsistent with the experience of players who actually win games on FCW.
"you should go the other way and harrass your rapturing neighbours", while this is not what you do
I took part in three different wars as a Monarchy in UR2 (where I had outrageous demographics) before I had even started rapturing. This wasn't even an MP2 game -- it was MP+, where rapture is even stronger
because all of the other options are improved drastically in MP2. The only reason I didn't go bullying people as a Monarchy in G25 was because it was an island game and I chose to invest my resources at home instead of adventuring. Those triremes could go scouting, or they could be turned into wonders. I definitely considered it, but one of the guys I was planning on bullying ended up being my ally, which turned out better for me since Dim is a great player.
tech exchange and two-path principle
G25 had a 70% tax on free techs (not just trades, but also Philosophy bonus tech) and there was very little tech trading going on until the post-industrial era. Dim, Krieg, and I chose drastically different strategies, and our opposing team (made up of very good players) was similarly variable. If your point is that no-tax or low-tax tech trading encourages a kind of degenerate metagame, then there are already plenty of MP2 players who agree with you, myself included. (That's not to say that, finding myself in a game with easy tech trades, I won't play to win.)
the main problem with the early game being incredibly important is that we are not playing chess. In chess (and Go) the table is completely symmetric and there are only two players. With that in mind, it is obvious that the players are in an equal position and anything that happens throughout the game is the result of their skill.
However, this can't be further from the truth in Civilization.
- heavily asymmetric map, both location-wise and resource-wise
- different neighbours: different number of them, different skill, and some of them may even be idle
In this situation, it is more often than not the case that your early and mid-game will heavily depend on sheer luck.
And if you're out of luck in the beginning of the game, without the chance to get back on your feet later, the whole game is ruined for you.
There are sufficient ways to play the game that it is your responsibility to adapt to your circumstances. The goal is not to compare your play to the best strategy in the best context
, but the best strategy in your own context
. There are games that are even more luck-dependent than Freeciv's geopolitical layer, like poker and Magic the Gathering, yet the same group of players tends to win every major poker tournament, and the stronger player reliably wins matches of MtG even if their opponent has the exact same deck (or a deck considered a hard counter to his own!) Managing "luck" by playing in a flexible way that takes into account the probabilistic distribution of future game-states is a core element of skill at a game
. It is of course possible
to get simply screwed by the map generator, or to have a spiteful neighbor, but it is your responsibility to adapt to these situations and make up for it elsewhere. These luck-based elements may play a role, but blaming the RNG is the recourse of a bad player who believes there is One True Strategy and any context which makes that strategy weak dooms you to certain defeat. (Dim was very
upset with his starting position in G25, and yet he was on the winning team because he selected a strategy that, while risky, was sufficient to overcome the initial weakness of his position.)