All hail Boudicca, warrior queen to the mighty Celtic empire! The title for the upcoming expansion to last year's Civilization V might be Gods and Kings, but from where I'm sitting, it's the queen you should be worried about.
As the Celts, I am awarded Druidic Lore (additional faith for cities adjacent to unimproved forest tiles), Pictish Warriors (combat bonus outside of friendly territory, can pillage at no additional movement cost, and earn 50 percent of enemy combat strength as faith for kills), and Ceilidh Hall (unique structure unlocked with acoustics that provides additional happiness, culture, and an artist slot).
Join me as I take my rightful place on the stage of history and seriously annoy my less-than-civilized neighbors.
TURN 50 Since I chose to start this session in the Classical Era, the game opens on turn 50. I have a handful of troops, a worker, and a settler at my disposal, plus all of the Ancient Era technologies already unlocked. In their own backyards my citizens can find plenty of fox, deer, and other game to hone their warrior prowess until it's time to lash out at our foes. In keeping with this aggressive mentality, I begin researching mathematics. Since catapults no longer require iron for construction, I can make use of them right away.
TURN 60 By turn 60 I am introduced to my first victim--er, I mean, neighbor--Pacal, leader of the Mayans. Despite his attractive headpiece and warm smile, I know nothing good can come of our relationship since he is no more than 10 spaces away from my capital. Still, we make nice and exchange embassies: a new form of early diplomacy that lets players view the location of each other's capital. Embassies also open up defensive pacts and open border agreements, but those technologies are not unlocked until much later.
A large part of early-game politics is influenced by religion, and thanks to my Druidic Lore bonus, the Celts get a head start. At 10 faith I am given the chance to select the first of five beliefs that will make up my people's religion. Given the prevalence of wild game in the area, I opt for Goddess of the Hunt, which grants additional food from camps.
TURN 70 Well, I settled a new city, which ticked everyone else right off--including my new neighbor to the west: Maria Theresa of Austria. Apparently, everyone had their eye on this one patch of land next to the world's only lake. The joke's on them, however, because I just got the test scores back from my people's latest algebra exam. Looks like we've got the mathematics technology in the bag. Time to start cranking on those catapults!
Further celebration is in order, because my people also found the time to complete the Stonehenge wonder--when they weren't practicing their multiplication tables. Stonehenge will further increase our faith gain, which will help speed the formation of our religion. I call up the Mayans to see if they would like to trade some goods, but they're not yet riding this hot new wave of mathematics. Therefore, their economy is in the toilet.
TURN 80 The iron working technology is in the bag now as well. This is good because this technology reveals that all of the precious iron deposits are someplace very far away from where I am. Great. The birth of a Great Prophet does help raise my spirits, because I can now found a proper religion by assigning two new beliefs. I go with church property (+2 gold for each city following this religion) and religious community (+1 percent production for each city following this religion--+15 percent max).
I could have also given my religion a funny name, but that well was running dry.
TURN 90 By turn 90 I've had just about enough of the Mayans' smugness. Just a few turns ago, I arranged a nice Christmas party for all the different civilizations. Maria brought a fruit cake, and I made some wicked cider, but Pacal complained the whole time about how this was 550 BC and Christmas did not exist yet. What a stick in the mud. When I suggested we hang lights in his headpiece, he responded by setting my tree on fire.
Now my troops are sitting outside his capital city of Palenque, loaded to the teeth with rocks, spears, and Christmas cheer. A special report also comes down the wire informing me that the Mayans have the least-pointy sticks in the world. This is a good sign.
TURN 100 Those sticks were pointier than I thought. The Mayans put up a brave fight, but we regrouped and eventually took their capital city. With happiness to spare, I went straight for the annex option and got to work on a courthouse. My first order of business will be to change all of the speed limit signs overnight, and then score big on traffic fees.
My empire is now three cities strong, with my third city nestled right alongside the Austrian empire on the west side. In a move of bold strategic prowess, Maria managed to get one of her military units stuck between two of my cities with no way to escape. She stubbornly left it stranded there for the rest of the game.
TURN 110 With a completely straight face, I call up Maria and ask if she would like to trade me some of her crabs--one of the several new luxury resources in this expansion. She found this to be quite offensive, made a sour face, and demanded I trade away all of my money and at least one appendage. But I know how to get her back. By cashing in some hard-earned faith, I recruited a new missionary unit. These holy units help spread your religion to other cities and can move into other players' territory without needing permission. Soon the people of Austria start seeing things my way.
TURN 120 War continues against the Mayans in the frigid northern tundra. Their second, final city is set behind several tiles of hills and forests, making it a big fat hassle to get my troops into position. At this rate, the new units would arrive just in time to give the old a proper burial (before being cut down themselves). Back home, Maria put the finishing touches on the Great Wall wonder, which I thought was just a super passive-aggressive move on her part. I made sure to nail up a sign that read: "Fine, we didn't want to hang out with you anyway!"
TURN 140 Twenty turns later and our second Great Prophet came and went. His presence let our nation complete its religion by adding the final two beliefs to our religious pool. One let us cash in faith to construct pagodas, unique structures that grant additional happiness, culture, and faith; while the second caused our religion to spread to cities 30 percent further away. Outside of direct intervention by missionaries, religion spreads by exerting pressure on other cities, which gradually generates followers over time based on the strength of that pressure.
Meanwhile, up north our forces make one final pass at the final Mayan city and are beaten back once again. After that extensive, subzero defeat, we finally decide it's time to make peace. One week later we receive a Hallmark card in the mail from the Mayans with a cartoon rabbit on the front that reads: "Thank you for not wiping out our entire civilization." It wasn't signed.
The demo ended shortly after, which left the mystery of who the fourth player was completely unsolved. This was especially upsetting since I was in the process of mapping out the newly discovered continent when the end came. Now I'll never know. After spending so much time with the religious system, I found it to be a very flexible way to complement a variety of playing styles. Hopefully the espionage system will be just as diverse when Gods and Kings is released on PC later this year.