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Moments: The Civilization V Nuke

by Adam Biessener on Oct 24, 2012 at 01:00 PM

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My allied city-states are lined up behind me, ready to endorse my election as the inaugural Secretary-General of the United Nations as soon as we cut the ribbon on the proper facility for such a momentous treaty. Before that seminal construction project has any chance of being completed, though, the Chinese spaceship will be on its way to Alpha Centauri and my diplomatic achievements will be forgotten as the world rallies around the Empress’ technological prowess. The mighty Ethiopian nation has one chance to forestall the Chinese space program long enough for the UN to finish construction: an amphibious invasion of Beijing, fought with inferior technology an ocean away from their homeland. There’s no way this could possibly go wrong.

There are many ways to win in Civilization V. In this case, my Ethiopians are trying to build the UN (a huge, expensive Wonder of the World) and win via diplomacy thanks to the city-states I’ve spent the whole game bribing into friendship. Wu Zetian of China is hoping to assemble all of the spaceship components – each large and costly by themselves, plus requiring the civilization to more or less complete the tech tree – and thereby win a science victory. The critical weakness I’m hoping to exploit is that all those components have to be brought to the civilization’s capital city in order to join the spaceship assembly, and though China has absorbed its entire continent via aggressive expansion and outright war, Beijing lies on its west coast, which I can easily sail to past a friendly Japanese nation.

China is much larger than I am and significantly more advanced scientifically, but I have the advantage of being able to throw my entire country’s significant manufacturing strength toward the buildup of a massive combined arms force of WWII-era battleships, submarines, and cruisers along with modern mechanized infantry. My hope is to be able to bombard Beijing’s defenders into submission and secure a beachhead with infantry to cut off the Chinese capital. Capturing the city itself would be a tall order given its huge defenses, but simply interdicting it long enough for the United Nations project to complete will secure the victory...if I can pull it off.

And if all else fails, my small supply of uranium is waiting in fissionable form aboard a few strategic bombers stationed on a carrier in the heart of my navy. Nuking Beijing itself won’t help much – the spaceship parts are off the board as soon as they arrive and therefore immune to attack – but I have two shots at blowing up a serious amount of enemy forces if the right situation pops up.

Once my forces are built up and parked in international waters just outside Chinese territory, phase one commences. I call Wu and inform her of my willful violation of her sovereign land, and she scoffs at the idea of uncivilized barbarians such as we threatening the mighty Chinese dragon. The pride of Ethiopia’s blue-water navy train their enormous deck cannons on mainland China, and the war is on.

Phase one goes perfectly. A few of Wu’s defenders are knocked out in the initial round of bombardment, and the first wave of my infantry park themselves in the immediate vicinity of Beijing. Then she gets a turn.

It’s a massacre. My navy is perfectly safe even in China’s coastal waters, but the brave Ethiopian infantry is slaughtered to a man as bombers, rockets, and tanks roll them over with few losses. Such is the fate of the tip of the spear. Luckily for me, Wu’s armies are now exposed in the open for retaliation by my navy and her land is shortly reoccupied by a fresh landing force.

This goes on for three more turns (I told you I built a lot of infantry), with my army taking significantly more losses as they’re vulnerable to a Chinese air force I don’t have the tech to properly defend against and long-range fire from her city defenders. Nonetheless, my troops’ sacrifices are not in vain as they score a major coup by taking out a spaceship booster she foolishly tried to sneak by the invaders. Then the Giant Death Robots show up.

Remember how I mentioned that Wu has out-teched me by a significant margin? I don’t even have modern aircraft or armor, and she’s so far down the tech tree that she not only researched but built two of these mighty nuclear-powered mechs. I thought I was in trouble before, but the GDRs are unstoppable in the kind of open-field warfare that I’m locked in with Wu’s armies. She is foolish enough to move one close enough to the coast that my battleships can concentrate enough fire to bring it down (after it slaughtered an entire division of infantry on its own), but the second hangs back ready to pulverize the next landing force, backed by more conventional weapons than I thought she had left. The UN building is finally ready, but the delegates apparently need a few turns to get everything in order before the final vote, and the military situation looks grim.

I’ve got one Hail Mary shot at this thing. I pick up the red phone with the one button and give the order. The Chinese heartland is set aflame by the fission warhead ignited at the huge mech’s feet...but it still stands with fully half of its health left after a direct nuclear strike. With no other options, I send my single remaining atomic weapon to try and finish the job, and this time I breathe easier as the mighty ro-beast falls. The last wave of infantry left in my reserves moves into the nuclear hellscape to resume the blockade of Beijing, and this one sets a new record by only suffering half its total strength in losses to Chinese retaliation.

[Forgive the generic atomic bomb video; this game save is long gone and I didn't capture it at the time. Many thanks to YouTuber ChronSolo541 for uploading this video]

A second Chinese spaceship part is captured by my troops on the next turn, shortly before they’re gunned down by yet another counterattack. I’m forced to pull my navy back – with no ground troops to distract them, the Chinese air force will pick it apart before it can do lasting damage on its own. My proud battleships retreat to prevent any intercontinental retaliation from the Empress, and all that’s left is to hit End Turn a few more times and hope that my suicidal assault tilted the race enough in Ethiopia’s favor that diplomacy wins out over science.

Apparently throwing three decades’ worth of an entire civilization’s industrial output into the meatgrinder of an intercontinental amphibious assault against the technologically superior forces of a country twice its size is exactly the kind of leadership the world is looking for out of the UN Secretary-General, because my diplomatic victory screen is the last event in the history of this randomly generated world.

And that’s how I got my “win with Ethiopia” achievement in Civilization V. What’s your favorite Civ story?