I wouldn't have thought, under these conditions, that you could get to Philosophy first AND have Polytheism on hand to pull a free Monarchy.
Why not? The variant rules restricted shields, not commerce. The only thing making that move harder than a normal game was the lack of rivers on the map, but one could compensate for that by building roads sooner since less worker labor is needed to irrigate as opposed to building mines.
The strategy I pulled, to grab Monarchy for free, isn't unbalancing. It's roughly akin to going for a wonder, in all aspects of the amount risked, the payoff, and the strategy/luck balance.
Where it becomes a problem is in a nonvariant game, grabbing Republic for free. Monarchy isn't tremendously more powerful than Despotism, and balancing research between the Polytheism branch and Writing branch does involve strategy. To grab the more powerful Republic, though, just requires luck on the AIs not researching Philosophy between the time Writing appears and the time that you finish Philo after Code of Laws. And there's little risked; even if the gambit fails, all you did was spend full-price research on two cheap techs to get yourself to the verge of Republic anyway. I would plan on trying this on almost any nonvariant game on Demigod or below, and there are reports in the CFC stories forum that it can even be done with luck on Sid.
The one thing I did expect from you and did not see was an early suicide curragh.
Er, would you believe that was because I completely forgot about curraghs? I intended to take luck OUT of that equation, by setting up that gap to be reachable safely by a non-suicidal galley. Totally forgot about the earlier boat.
I'm not sure what to do about the issue going forward. A map designer can mostly compensate by making continental gaps either reachable by curragh or requiring 3-4 turns at sea to greatly reduce the chance of success. And of course it's not an issue on pangaea maps. Can still be a problem, though, especially on random maps or for seafaring civs.
Are you going to be joining us for any MOO action?
I've never played any of the MOO games at all, but I've been debating about that. I decided a couple weeks ago to try to reduce my gaming time in general in favor of other pursuits, which is why I haven't gotten into either MOO or GalCiv yet. I'll see where the wind blows me over the next few weeks, though I doubt I'll get into any new games for some time.
The game takes away the shields added by the civil engineers. Score one for the C3C team in stamping out loopholes.
You sure? It doesn't display or credit engineer shields when a unit is selected in the production box, of course, but are you saying it actually reduces the number of shields in the box when you swap from a building to a unit? (and puts them back if you switch back to a building?) I don't think that's what I observed.