24 October 2014

Let's Play/MST... Witch Night

Hey guys, long time no post!

It's been a busy last few months for me but the last couple of weeks have been busily spent producing my second Let's Play of the AGS Game 'Witch Night' in time for and in honor of Halloween. Zoogz and I both wrote the script and my sister KizzyCaspy and I performed the voices. You can find both the Let's Play and the Blooper Reel on YouTube at the following links:

-- Let's Play... Witch Night

-- Blooper Reel

All comments and criticisms are greatly appreciated and we sincerely hope you enjoy it. :)


Megane 6.7 and Zoogz

02 April 2014

Post-mortem of the #CancelColbert situation:

I very rarely get exercised about things as they happen nowadays.  My whole presence on the Internet is predicated on trying to analyze things after-the-fact, to try to come up with new ways of looking at old movies, or fanfiction that has been published before.  After all, writing a too-late review means that there's something to try to add to the discussion that happened months/years/decades ago...

In some ways though, I'm more than happy to write about an issue related to Twitter that happened only six days ago.  This is the Internet, and as far as the Internet is concerned the issue is pretty much over.  It's Twitter after all.

The issue in question is the #CancelColbert tag that was propagated over the weekend by quite a few Internet activists.  I read about this story from more than a few angles, and I might suggest reading the Wikipedia page of the originator of this line of tweets, Suey Park, in order to get some of the story behind her and what she does to bring issues to the attention of others.  The link section has some articles, though if you're reading this more than a couple months in the future they may already be down.

There is an alternate point of view to the articles as well, which are fairly sympathetic to Suey Park's point of view.  Another person on Twitter posted about Suey Park's past tendencies and Tweets, and the article can be found by through going to her blog, Joslyn Steven's Opt Out.

The issue can be summed up rather quickly.  On The Colbert Report, Wednesday March 26, Stephen Colbert reported on the Washington Redskins (football team) owner Dan Snyder.  The Redskins were named the Redskins in the 30s by their owner back then.  In this more enlightened day and age, the Redskins have obviously never changed their team nickname, despite at least some pressure to do so.  Snyder very recently set up The Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation in order to provide financial support to Native Americans.  Colbert told a joke on his show which compared this act to setting up the "Ching-Chong Ding Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever".  In the show, he also topped it off by doing his impression of a man trying to be as racist against Asians as possible.

The show on Wednesday didn't cause the ruckus... a follow-up tweet on Thursday Night that included the following did: "I am willing to show #Asian community I care introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever".  At this point, the #FireColbert tag was instigated by Suey Park, posting on Twitter by retweeting this tweet and telling her followers to "trend it".

The aftermath of the situation included Colbert disavowing the tweet, which was honest... it originated from a Comedy Central staffer, as the tweet was an official "show account" rather than Colbert's personal account.  Colbert took to the air on Monday to address the situation, saying that he bore no responsibility for the tweet, and the "show account" was quickly removed.

So.... why am I here then?  What dog do I have in the fight?  Well, my largest issue in this matter is this; I have watched The Colbert Report and I enjoy Stephen Colbert's work as well as his writers -- the list of whom can be found at Wikipedia here, they really deserve a lot of credit for Stephen's ability to tell good jokes consistently.

I have never heard of Suey Park prior to this, and while some of the research on her was not positive (such as what was posted by Joslyn Stevens), when I viewed her Twitter account, she was using her bandwidth to try to raise money for charity rather than making any money from all of this.  She also did endure a bit of a backlash from people who were not the most respectful in tone.

It's not as if there's a clear-cut "bad guy" in this.  Stephen Colbert tried to illustrate how ridiculous Dan Snyder's attempt at healing is when he's not willing to do more than token efforts.  Suey Park tried to illustrate how racism is sadly pervasive, because the joke that Stephen Colbert used has been utilized in the past to demean others.  And after all of this, Dan Snyder manages to get off the hook for his own tone-deafness, while Colbert is obligated to try to defend himself.

What can someone do to try to reconcile their thoughts and feelings about this?  Well, it's to realize that not everyone will be right 100% of the time, no matter what.  (I'm sure you've noticed that of me and my typos over the years.)  My thought is that Suey Park should use more of her bandwidth to explore ways that she can call out people who are directly benefitting from racism.  Stephen Colbert's racism amounted to one joke out of the... near to how many thousands that he's told on the show.  He is not making a single dime from the "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation"... meanwhile, Snyder is raking in quite a bit of money from all sorts of shirts, mugs, and other memorabilia emblazoned with a racist caricature, and refuses to change this.  There's got to be some sort of level where the pervasive, money-grubbing, profit-seeking racism gets seen as a far larger issue than the joke that serves to HIGHLIGHT the money-grubbing, profit-seeking racism.

By the same token though, satire doesn't get to be utilized as a complete get-out-of-jail-free shield.  Of course Colbert was trying to highlight how tone-deaf Snyder's move was, but it's not as if this joke was the ONLY joke that could be told in this situation.  There's a full room of writers in the back, and there's times that they have to realize that yes, even the cringe-inducing jokes that elicit a weak chuckle might not need to be said.  Worse yet was Stephen Colbert's reaction to this.  Yes, he did not tweet it, but he absolutely did say it.  Yes, it was out of context... but that's what needs to be addressed.

Overall, I feel that the worst offender in this situation is Twitter in general as well as the news media that reports about Twitter.  There's too little actual reporting about what goes on in this country, ways that people gain their money either illegally or immorally... but we can absolutely stop our 24/7 coverage of the Malaysian Airlines crisis in order to cover this... non-news.  There's no context on Twitter because it's the very nature of Twitter.  This post is not 140 characters for a reason.  There's shades of gray that can't be drawn in only 140 characters.  Those shades of gray are absolutely vital to this issue, but they are completely absent.

Just know, that in this world there's space for satirists to call out the abuses of others AND there's space in this world for the viewers of this world to call out the satirists when one too many lines are crossed.  We need the Colberts to work on the big issues of the day.  We want the efforts of Suey Park and others to shine a light on our discourse, even if we think it is unnecessary or incorrect, so that we can reevalute if the joke is worth it, or if there's ways that we can try to help everyone, not just the people who "get the joke".

At least, that's my 7,086 characters.

04 March 2014

#2LR Too Late Reviews -- Star Trek Into Darkness and the art of the reboot.

Sequels have been around for pretty much forever in the annals of storytelling.  Even the Iliad had its Odyssey following it.  The continuity of characters and of relationships or situations makes it easy for viewers of the original to be able to relate to the sequel very quickly.  Of course, the authors of sequels are helped as well, as they've already created the groundwork for the story to go forward, they can then spend less time on the nuts and bolts and get to the plot, the rising action that will allow their readers or viewers to really enjoy what they're seeing.

Reboots, however, are a more recent vintage.  It's thought that the term literally comes from the computer term for "reboot", where a computer system comes up after being shut down.  There are BIOS instructions for the computer system to set up and run an operating system so that it will act as if it did before, and it will clear up any errors that may have been introduced in the RAM by other programs.

It's a fairly apt term when applied to the literary equivalent and most recently, movie equivalent.  Comic books had to deal with this constantly even decades ago... when artists move on but leave their creations, it's a property that has already been invested in and built up.  When a new artist comes to fill in on that continuity, what are they to do?

A reboot is not necessarily a remake... remakes have been happening for ages.  It's not as if the original actors of Hamlet can come out of retirement to show us how it's done.  A reboot is in a different world its own.  A remake may be straightforward or it may reimagines the source material in a different light and introduces few if any plot changes.  The remake might emphasize or deemphasize certain aspects of the source work, but overall it does not vary nor is there much added to the source work plot-wise.  A reboot keeps the characters and some of the situations of the original work, but ends up moving off in a completely different direction, managing to make up its own plot distinct from the work that it first used as its basis.

With that said, how do reboots work, and what do they do right?  I recently had a chance to rewatch Star Trek Into Darkness and felt that talking about the high points and low points of reboots would be the right thing to do in the context of this movie.

[Spoiler Space ahead]

The movie opens up on Spock being lowered into a volcano and Kirk and Bones fleeing a group of pale-skinned natives on a planet.  It turns out in the prologue that the volcano is literally slated to destroy the planet that they're on and without Spock's direct assistance this rock might never see the miracle of cheez in a can realized someday.

To escape the natives running after, the two end up taking a flying leap off of a cliff into the water below where we find the Enterprise curiously "docked".  (Ha?)  Why the heck it was placed near the planet's surface instead of safely orbiting I don't honestly remember... much less the nerdy objections to how it can operate in a pressure-filled environment when it is supposed to be in a pressure-less environment.  Or, if the volcano is imminent to explode, why have the starship anywhere near the surface??  Technerd objections aside, Kirk and Bones appear in the airlock and Kirk immediately asks about Spock.  Spock, meantime, is doing his level best to reenact the Mount Doom sequences from Lord of the Rings.

The plot contrivance volcano is giving off too much "magnetism" for the Enterprise to just beam Spock back aboard.  The crew theorizes that they need to get into "line of sight" with Spock, so they have to lift the starship out of the ocean.  Spock vehemently vetoes the idea as he places the Prime Directive above his own safety but Kirk overrules him.  Spock is picked up in the nick of time, the planet's natives start to worship a picture of a starship instead of their previous artifacts, and the Enterprise is returning to Earth at warp-speed.

On Earth, Kirk is caught lying on the report of the incident by Spock counter filing his own report.  Kirk gets busted down to first officer and Spock gets reassigned.  (Here's one of the two spots that I'm highlighting below.)  At around this time one of Starfleet's libraries gets bombed and that draws in the senior command for a meeting.  Kirk rightly figures out that the library bombing was purely a feint to get senior command together in one spot.  Too late though... just as he figured it out, the bullets start flying and the body count continues to grow.

The perpetrator escapes.  He leaves behind one major clue... he's going to the Klingon homeworld to hide out.  Starfleet comes up with a massively cockamamie idea to shoot missiles at the Klingon homeworld from neutral space, even providing 72(!!) of them.  Kirk's crew has major misgivings, from Spock's protestations that it is a military rather than exploratory mission and Scotty's resignation over not knowing the missile's contents.  Kirk cares less as it was shown that Captain Pike, who pulled him into Starfleet and gave him his first commission, was one of the casualties of the terrorist attack.  Kirk just wants blood.  Chekov replaces Scotty as head engineer because they didn't train a SINGLE PERSON in Engineering how to work ALL the parts at once.

The Enterprise gets to the neutral zone point but then warp core problems start.  (I think it was sabotage, at least it would have made more sense to the plot, but I don't remember exactly how).  Kirk, Spock, and Uhura then take a shuttlecraft to the Klingon home world... all the while Uhura and Spock are fighting because Uhura thought it insensitive that Spock considered the Prime Directive over HER FEELINGS.  (If the dude was literally ready to die in order to not break the rules, I think that the relationship was like second place...)  After the odd snit, they manage to get captured by the Klingons... but then the fugitive shows up and takes out about thirty of them via hand-held phaser and massive phaser cannon.  The fugitive asks Kirk about how many missiles are pointed at his head.  When Kirk answers "72", he immediately surrenders... and tells us his name is Khan.

(Sigh.  Yes, Khan's back.)

At this point things get even weirder.  First, one of the missiles is opened and it turns out to be a cryogenic pod containing one of Khan's crewmembers.  All of these dudes are packed in those tubes and it is Khan's intention to recover them to recreate his own group of followers.  He also tells Kirk of the skunkworks he worked at somewhere around Jupiter where one of the Starfleet admirals (Marcus) was creating major weapons of war. Khan has been helping to design and build battlecruisers.  I didn't quite catch if it was the case, but it may have been verboten by agreements with other groups (e.g. Romulans, Klingons, etc.).  Kirk messages Scotty back on Earth to investigate Khan's story.

Marcus wants Khan dead because Khan knows too much... and now by association, so does the Enterprise.  Kirk first attempts to run, but the battleship is just as fast and can shoot at them while in warp-speed travel. After enough of the Enterprise is beat up, Kirk stops near Earth, but is unfortunately far enough away for anyone to figure out what's going on.

The Enterprise is helpless... the engines are out, shields are out, and weapons are offline.  Kirk's love-interest, Carol Marcus, pleads with her father to spare the Enterprise.  Marcus responds by transporting her to his battleship and continues to prime the weapons.  It turned out that Scotty had managed to sneak his way onto the battleship and has disabled the weapons in order to spare the Enterprise, even briefly.  Since there's no way to do anything to the battleship from the Enterprise, Kirk and Khan decide to don spacesuits to get from one to the other via space.

Scotty opens a porthole, both fly in, and then they make their way to the bridge.  Kirk and Khan manage to subdue the skeleton crew of the battleship including Marcus.  Kirk then swings his phaser around to stun Khan.  Khan does not stay stunned.  Khan takes control of the bridge of the warship, parlaying with Spock for the return of his crew.  Spock instead pulled all of the cryotubes from each of the missiles and replaced them with explosives, wired to detonate when transported to the battleship.  The weapons explode and both starships are sent towards Earth's gravity.

The Enterprise can't escape gravity because their engines are still down.  Kirk does his best imitation of one of those human fly performers to climb up the warp core.  At the top he literally kicks one of the two "contacts" in the core to bring them back in alignment.  I am amazed that there are not septuple-redundant systems to do this NOT within the warp core, as going in will subject him to Chernobyl-level radiation doses and death.  He does anyway... and he and Spock reenact the scene at the end of the original "Wrath of Khan", but in reverse... Kirk inside and Spock outside.  Yes, there will be complaints below.

Meanwhile, Khan manages to crash the battleship into Starfleet headquarters in San Francisco, and even manages to survive and run away from *this*.  Spock (and Uhura) ends up chasing him down, capturing him, and returning him *to a cryopod*.

Hokay, I've got to take a break to address this.  Hey, movie, mind executing the dude who massacred many civilians by crashing a starship into the middle of a city?  Not to mention the library explosion, a squad of killed Klingons, the senior command shooting in the beginning?  Heck, what about the skeleton crew of what looked like Blackwater contractors flying the Starfleet dreadnought, that were all "stunned" rather than killed and ended up perishing in the final crash?  No, you need him for future sequels?  *sigh*

Last but not least, we find out that Khan's blood has "regenerative properties"... I suppose Wolverine is still alive and kicking somewhere in the universe's equivalent of a Yellowknife dive bar.  This time though it doesn't take another movie to bring Kirk back, just a plot contrivance.  Yeah, I know that Khan's blood was needed for Bones' super-serum to heal Kirk (hey Starfleet, who will you be sharing THAT formula with...), but there's TONS of time afterward to execute him.  THIS is why reboots end up becoming necessary, by the way, these throwaway "super serums" that end up mucking up a continuity.

As the movie rolls further past the two-hour mark the epilogue is a rededication of the Enterprise, which I am surprised even managed to get *re*built... I would have absolutely believed "built again" considering the massive hull holes that sucked out numerous people.

The summary for this movie is over... though some people may consider the below discussion of the nuts and bolts of the ending spoiler space as well. I've attempted to hide as much as possible, but it can't all be pulled from view. You've been warned...

I wanted to point out the best reason for a reboot.  It was in the beginning when Chris Pine's Kirk and Zach Quinto's Spock are getting dressed down for the actions they took in the prologue to the movie.  Spock protests that Admiral Pike is not considering the overall details of the mission, how it was supposed to have happened, and what then subsequently made the mission fail.  Pike dismisses Spock's concern by telling him that they were merely technicalities... Spock then not only tells Pike that technicalities are the soul of a Vulcan, but managed to get into the technicalities of the technicalities.  I absolutely loved the scene even if it was just a minor thing, and to me this showed the heights that a reboot can provide... it may be a new person writing Spock, but they're trying to stay as true to his character (or perhaps Quinto was improvising?) and I thought that it was a cool touch.

However, the reboot has the awkward task of *reminding* people of the original while not hewing too closely.  I can respect that they would bring back not only old characters but also old villains.  That's fine and fair game to me.  However, the scene between Kirk and Spock that I marked with complaints above is getting mentioned here.  I thought it was not only really unnecessary, it was almost as if the movie had to contort its plot just to make sure that the scene could be included.

See, the problem for me was that getting Kirk into the situation was not easy.  They also had a very tough time trying to establish the stakes of the situation... firstly, Kirk's "killer" was much like the "killer" from The Happening... silent, invisible, and "deadly".  There was an "against the clock" situation accompanying it (as the starship was currently non-operational), but according to the internal logic, the moment that Kirk stepped inside he signed his death warrant.  I remain extremely surprised that the equipment to be able to deal with the situation was not present, especially since it seemed that the problem he fixed was something that could possibly happen in other contexts.  This is Starfleet.  There should be systems backing up systems backing up systems... unless of course, the problem Kirk fixed can be dealt with by a few Ensign Throwaway redshirts.

I couldn't find this final scene even halfway believable either.  After two new Star Trek movies, there'd be no way that they'd kill off one of the marquee stars this easily.  So it was almost as if the movie telegraphed the fact that it would be breaking its own continuity.  And it did, in pretty spectacular form.  At this point, they put in the scene between Spock and Khan at the end of the movie.  There was a lack of suspense in knowing that they would bring back James T. Kirk, but you even knew during the *fight scene* who would win because of it.  So, this scene destroyed the suspense for BOTH of the resolutions.

The screenwriters knew that they couldn't spend a movie bringing Kirk back (like the original series did by bringing Spock back in Star Trek 3), so why even attempt it?  And lo and behold, it wasn't attempted.  As above, they used a method that was outlandish for even comic books to bring Kirk back in about fifteen minutes flat.

This is what I just can't get behind with a reboot.  If you're going to have to change your story to try to incorporate plot points, make sure that it's going to fit in your overarching plot.  Yes, there's a touch of the technerd in me, but it felt like they had to open up a few holes in the fabric of the story in order to get these aspects into the movie... and I can't get behind that.  Give me more "The Universe Hates Jim Kirk's Face" compared to this.

[spoiler space officially over]

It's gotta be the first time that I nested spoiler space warnings.  As far as the more generic judging of the movie, I did feel that it went on about twenty to thirty minutes too long (at almost 2:15, it really could have used an editor or two).  Looking back, the previous Star Trek film was just over the two-hour mark at 127 minutes... but the first film also had to carry the task of introducing the whole reboot setup, so I can forgive it the extra time.  This one really didn't have to carry the introduction issues.

I already explained my love-hate relationship with reboots in general and in the plot of this one in specific.  Please don't think that I disliked the movie though... just like in the August Rush review I posted, I enjoyed the movie but felt that it could have worked out even better.  As far as my scale goes, I popped it into my DVD player only yesterday, so that satisfies the level 3 criteria really well.  However, I will also say that I stopped it about three-quarters the way through the movie... and I'm perfectly fine stopping it where I have it, as I remember enough of the rest of the film.  So, it occupies a weird area where I sincerely enjoy the first one hundred ten minutes and can take or leave the last twenty.

So, I suppose that I will give it a flat 3, as an average of the 3.5 that it sustains for an hour and change and the 2.3 that it finishes with.  It's not as if it's the modern equivalent of The Girl in Lovers' Lane, but it does get my nitpicky hackles rising... if you want to lose yourself in the action sequences or the twisty-turny plot, then you'll enjoy it.

02 March 2014

#2LR Meta Navel-Gazing Part 2 -- Inspiration

In the first meta navel-gazing post, I tried to go into part of the reason that I write these reviews... wanting to talk about art to other people, finding methods that make movies / television shows / anime series / video games work or not work, and wanting to share my opinions of such.  In this post though, I wanted to go into the idea of inspiration a bit more, and to discuss a bit of how it works as far as a critic (slash MST3k writer) goes.

Firstly, I absolutely love Wikipedia.  I collect trivia like other people collect shotglasses, spoons, or other knickknacks.  There's just a wide range of amazing stories... such as the Great Chicago Fire happening the same day as massive fires in both Wisconsin and in two different places in Michigan.  One of these many places happens to be my hometown, yet I hadn't the slightest idea that this coincidence existed until reading Wikipedia articles.

Another favorite story is about an eighteenth-century queen of Denmark, Caroline Matilda.  In twenty-three short years, she managed to provide an heir to the Danish throne (plus a daughter), ended up taking some sort of charge of the kingdom when her husband became mentally infirm, going as far as to dress as a man to rally the troops, embroiled in scandal when it was implied that the king's doctor was the true father of both her children... it's really just a fascinating story to me, and it happened in only a few short years.  At some point, I think I need to find more books about this because I'm sure that the backstory will be even more surprising.

Cruising Wikipedia became my go-to for stories about accidents and other catastrophes for a while too... for me, I enjoyed reading the accounts of aircraft accidents or other disasters, finding out which decisions were the fateful ones, realizing that there's sometimes just that thin thread even if it didn't seem thin at the time.  I wrote a whole post describing more of my enjoyment of "disaster porn" that can be found at the link.

I suppose that one of my favorite subjects recently has been reading the articles posted about music.  The Beatles in specific have been covered quite a bit, but there are more than a few other artists that have articles up about their songs on Wikipedia.  I'm interested by these because I really enjoy hearing about the creative process... pulling just the most random thoughts out of midair, adding lyrics and music to these thoughts, and then bringing them to life to the point that millions of people want to hear more and more.  In all frankness, I've never been a big fan of the Beatles, but hearing the stories behind their work has actually encouraged me to listen a bit closer to their music, and I have been slowly becoming more and more of a fan.

It's really odd where one finds their inspiration, yet I think that the parallel activities of writing MST3k treatments of fanfiction and writing reviews of various types of media dovetails quite nicely.  As I look back, I find myself wanting to comment most on what other people have done, or said, or played, or acted... it's almost like I care just as much about the execution of the idea as I care about the idea itself being shown.  My inspiration and enjoyment comes in writing humor about creative situations, or commenting about the creative situations, and trying to find the thin line between the creators and their creation on one side and how the creations are perceived by the other.

I'm not sure if I'd ever really write anything original, at least not at present.  I suppose I would need to figure out a way to get inspired by my own thoughts, by bringing life to something completely internal rather than something that piques my interest because of how it affects me and makes me feel.

At present though, I'm more than happy to offer my thoughts on the experiences I share with others.  I certainly can understand the critics' soul far more than I did before I started doing this... right now, I'm comfortable in telling what audience we have my thoughts on watching/listening/playing, and hopefully we'll get a few interesting conversations scraped together sometime about how things will work for some but not for others.

23 February 2014

Did Snoopy Invent The Hurricane Kick???

Holy crap! I was watching PawDugan's 'review' of the 1984 Peanuts Special/Musical 'Flashbeagle' and I made an amazing discovery!

Are you ready for this? It turns out Snoopy may have been the original inventor of the Tatsumaki Senpukyaku (Hurricane Kick) THREE years before Ryu and Ken started using it in Street Fighter! Don't believe me? See it and judge for yourself! ;P

'Snoopy Hurricane Kick'

19 February 2014

#2LR Too Late Review: Read or Die the TV series

Review: Read or Die the TV Series:

I'm not sure that I can come up with much of an introduction to this anime series, because what I need to say pretty much comes after the summary in order to be understandable.  For those who want to hew to SPOILER SPACE, I'll try to obfuscate as many of the spoilers as I can get to.

The story of Read or Die is not really reading per se, but the story of paper.  In the great Southern Woods... oh, actually, in Hong Kong, a famous Japanese author, Nenene Sumiregawa, found herself in a bit of trouble. She was saved by a group of women called "The Three Sisters Detective Agency".  The three women are Michelle, Maggie, and Anita.  All three of the sisters have the power to make paper bend to their will, to fold itself and stick itself together, and to move as they want it to. Michelle's power is primarily in making a bow/arrow, Maggie's power is to make animal shapes and activate them much like golems, and Anita's power is to be able to use paper in its deadliest form... to cut others.

The three sisters take Nenene back to Japan, and end up acting as her bodyguards so that Nenene can finish her latest book.  Anita is still young enough to need to go to school, so she enrolls.  One of the other students
there is a very effeminate boy, "Junior", who can walk through walls and/or floors without any problems.

To introduce the remaining characters and their backstory are Nenene's agent, the first evil conglomerate "Dokusensha", and the second evil conglomerate -- the British Library (?!)  As well, Nenene's on the search
for one of the teachers that she most learned from, Yomiko Readman (pun likely intended by the Japanese writers).

The story has quite a few twists and turns... Dokusensha, while paying off the Three Sisters to complete jobs on the side, ends up using Nenene's agent to kidnap her.  It seems that they want to use a set of artifact
books to try to rewrite Nenene's brain.  Their plan goes south when the Three Sisters realize what is happening and mount a rescue mission back to Dokusensha's main offices in Hong Kong to get her back.  As probably predicted, they are successful.  The interesting wrinkle is that they're labeled "terrorists" for causing all this damage to the building, so there is a bit of the cloak-and-dagger involved in the rest of the show.  It almost would have been interesting, but it got relegated to the memory-hole within only a couple episodes.

After those events the Three Sisters end up finding Yomiko Readman, in the halls of the Library of Japan based off of a tip from a local bookstore owner.  Yomiko's in there along with another woman, Nancy, who seems as meek and mild as a mouse.  Both turn out to be hiding from the British Library, the arch-enemy of Dokusensha, as both turned out to be agents.  Yomiko can also paper-bend, and not just to make little folded footballs during class.

And that's when the plot really ends up going off the rails.  See, the British's power from the mid-15th century through World War II was due to "Mr. Gentleman", who they managed to keep alive all those centuries.  He's dead now, and as a result the British Library hatched a plan to "bring him back", as it were, through the use of Junior's body as a vessel.  There's really very little reason for Nenene to be involved, except as we find out later... the British Library (and their aptly title leader, "Mr. Joker") need her to write the Gospel of Mr. Gentleman once he revives... as no one knew who Jesus was except through the record of the Bible.  Of course, Mr. Gentleman will bring the British back to prominence, even at the expense
of historical allies such as the U.S. of A.

Wow.  Well, in the final encounter, Joker *literally* invites all of the main characters save Nancy and an American heavy they picked up along the way to see his "moment of triumph", without really even restraining them much.  In this case, it was Nenene who managed to hide the Three Sisters' paper-based ammunition on herself, only to bring it out in order to save Junior at the end.  And it also turned out that Nancy was like Double-O Eight, though in a far-tighter (and far more revealing) catsuit than James Bond ever had.

I'm pretty much skipping the sideplot of Anita going to school, but that's because you would've cared even less than I did had you watched it yourself.

[Spoiler space OVER]

I suppose that I've been spoiled by a few series lately, even finding some good stuff out of series that would pretty much be one-note (Rosario + Vampire).  I can pretty much say that this series was watched out of sheer dedication to finishing rather than any desire to find out what happens.  I obtained the first few DVDs from the local library, and I literally had three of the discs sit on my dresser for almost four weeks before I finally watched all of the twelve episodes contained therein.

There was exactly one good moment, which was finding out which character was responsible for kick-starting the action portion of the first section of the show (the Dokusensha section).  I had to admit that the writers/animators did a good job hiding who it was, though it wasn't as if there was a huge trail of bread crumbs or anything... it was just one of those left-field surprises that catches you offguard and keeps your attention because of it.

After that though, the whole thing pretty much fell apart.  How to characterize why it fell apart may be difficult except to say that it was way too unbelievable.  I couldn't summon the suspension of disbelief needed for the second half's Macguffin to work with any sort of clarity.  I think it was because even the show was pretty unclear as to how it was supposed to work.

The segments of Anita going to school in Japan were also really... boring.  I couldn't have cared less, and it's not like there was emotion overwhelming and the sequences didn't exactly add any depth or plot or anything to the story.  Late in the series, Anita gets into a fight with Michelle, and I realized why I couldn't have cared less about these school segments... it's because the character of Anita is screechy, rather unredeemable, and there's really no character arc to her to rehabilitate any of those features.  Of course she had a tragic backstory (in these things, who doesn't?) but... well, as a character who ended up becoming a... or really, *the* main protagonist... mark me as uninterested.

Of course, that just leads me into the last "unbelievable" comment.  Even after the backstory which was way too out there to be believable, there's two situations (one involving a helicopter, and then the final encounter) where it's so patently obvious what has happened.  I find it annoying when you can see the bait-and-switch the writers are attempting to write as it is happening on the screen.  It's almost like watching a magic trick when you know the secret behind it.  I wish that at some level, they either A) went for smaller stakes / more permanent *results* in the helicopter thing and then B) had another episode or two to do a far better job of resolving the final conflict, as the ten-minute resolution really sucked.  The final assault should have been at least two episodes... dammit, there's four paper-benders and two special agents assaulting a building that had a fricking LAKE built around it and plenty of airborne and mecha defense.  Yet they find the train that goes right up to it and trick the idiot security guard, even as the evil organization's fantastical defenses make mincement out of a US carrier wing.  Screw that.

Yeah, I know, I should be warning you about the spoiler space, but this is pretty basic stuff that the writers of an anime should look into rectifying, especially if you're going to show how many books all the main characters read... yet the writer(s) go for the massive cliche instead of anything new... and that really becomes the basis of the complaint.

Feel free to watch this show for the action sequences, they're kind of cool. The interplay between Nenene and the Three Sisters is enjoyable especially in the beginning.  Other than that... it's old ground tread upon for the umpteenth time, much like watching pretty much anything on American network TV anymore.  And about the only "dying" you'd do in Read or Die is breaking your neck falling through a plothole.

Final rating: 1.4

17 February 2014

#2LR Meta Navel-Gazing

Through seven years now we've posted about seventy or so #2LR Too Late Reviews on this blog.  I wanted to write the post in order to try to collect my thoughts about criticising movies, video games, and television shows/anime in one place.

Before I start though, I'd like to thank Megane 6.7 for writing #2LRs for recent video games.  I'm not as plugged into the videogame scene as I once was... and the recent Civilization V review and subsequent strategy guide that I posted to GameFAQs is pretty much the sum total of my hardcore gaming through a couple years now.

One of the most major reasons that I started doing the Too Late Reviews postings is that I've noticed something about movie reviews personally.  When I read a movie review, especially a good movie review, its almost as much art as the movie itself.  A movie review even with a summary isn't the whole movie... but I find that the best reviews not only hit on the high points, but they give me an idea of the movie other than just the main plotline.

I've strived to write these reviews so that you, our readers, will get an idea of not only the movie but to understand some of the things underlying the movie.  As with the most recent Oz review, which was a bit desultory, the point behind it was that the movie was somewhat desultory as well.  I want to give you an idea when things go right of why they went right... for instance, writing about Grave of the Fireflies, in order to tell you why a movie that may be relentless and gripping and depressing is worth watching, the things that the movie did so right that you can't easily find in other movies.  I want to highlight the high points and the low points and to give you an idea of the why behind the reasoning that they're high points or low points. 

Ultimately, I want to try to peel back the story to show an aspect of storytelling, writing, moviecraft... anything that will hopefully give you more of an insight.  I'm certainly no movie insider... but I am someone who tries to notice detail, even the smallest ones.  The training for this is the fifteen years or so that I've been writing Mystery Science Theater treatments of fanfics and constantly trying to focus not only the words on the screen in front of me, but what they symbolize.

One of the most recent MSTings that Megane 6.7 and I are working on is a story that is rather technically competent 'fic.  It's a crossover between two series that Megane 6.7 and I seem to keep returning to.  When we requested permission, the authors expressed a bit of surprise... they thought their 'fic was good.  Well, their 'fic was good.  I loved it because the concept behind it is an interesting read, and hopefully our jokes will add with the interest factor of the 'fic to make it even better.

That's my goal with the #2LR series.  I want to make whatever you watch or play a better experience, whether or not it's something you've already watched.  Not only that, I want to express why something worked, or why something didn't, and my goal is to not only enjoy what I watch but to really concentrate on it, to figure out why I liked it, and then to find similar examples.

Alternately... above all, whether it's good or it's bad, I'll do my level best to make the reviews interesting whether through humor or insight.

We hope you continue to enjoy reading these reviews, our blog in general, and our website.  Speaking for both Megane 6.7 and myself, we feel honored to have you spend your time reading our work, and we hope that you enjoy.

15 February 2014

#2LR Movie Review: Oz, the Great and Powerful

Okay, so here's how lazy I am... this was written about six weeks ago and not posted. I have the Read or Die posting scheduled to run midweek as well.

Today’s 2LR is for the movie, Oz. The Great and Powerful.  In full disclosure, I probably have seen The Wizard of Oz perhaps once or twice in my childhood, but it was a movie that I was not really crazy about.  I think I was creeped out by the Munchkins, or perhaps the Tin Woodsman.  With that said, take any opinions I have against the world of Oz with a grain of salt, or perhaps a brick.

(Spoiler space ahead.)

The movie begins at a fairground in 1905, where a traveling magician is about to put on his act at the fair.  After a bit of issue with the local townsfolk, and then an issue with some of the sideshow acts, the traveling magician – Oz, short for Oscar -- takes off in a hot-air balloon to run away.  Unfortunately, being 1905 Kansas, he ends up sucked into a tornado.

You can probably guess where Oz the Magician ends up.  Thankfully, the image on the screen goes from black-and-white to color at this point, and the image finally fills the screen.  I know why the director did this, but it doesn’t mean that I liked it.  At any rate, Meg from Family Guy meets up with the crashed balloon, and she takes our erstwhile shyster to the Emerald City, for it was foretold that the savior of Oz would crash into Oz, and also have the same name.

So, we meet another witch who helps run the Emerald City, who seems nice but quite doubts Oz’s qualifications. She shows him the gold that the King of Oz is entitled to, and Oz’s eyes go wide.  She then tells him that he has to defeat (e.g. kill) a wicked witch, and gives him directions to get there. 

After that, Oz is going down the yellow-brick road on his way to kill the witch.  Meanwhile, we find out that Meg’s older sister is a bit mean… especially once we find out that Oz was sent to kill Glinda, the Good Witch.  It seems that she was chased off from the Emerald City by the death of her father, the king.  The older sister then starts on Meg Griffin, telling her that Oz (who she mysteriously was taken with) is now interested in Glinda.  Older sis uses Meg’s temper against her, tricking her into eating a green apple, which turns her green and ensures that she will turn into Margaret Hamilton in negative seventy years, give-or-take.

Glinda shows Oz the townspeople who they are trying to defend, and then mentions to him that they need to figure out a way to defeat the witches without killing them.  Seems a tall task, but if ever you need someone to resort to trickery, use a con-man.  Oz plans out ways to use sleight-of-hand style tricks and devices to defeat both the Flying Monkeys as well as the “Winkie Guards” (see, this is why I can’t take Oz overly seriously).  He also creates the famous smoke machine, fakes his own death so that the people of Oz treat it as if his spirit is coming back from the grave to help them, and manages to freak out both witches sufficiently to get them running.  Glinda takes care of the other advisor by breaking her magic necklace and starting a Raiders of the Lost Ark sequence on her, and Meg just flies off cackling.

(spoiler space over)

What did we learn?  Good question.  All I know is that in human history, it’s usually not a good idea to turn the governance of a country over to a con-man, no matter how “reformed” he seems.  As for the movie itself, I feel rather ambivalent towards it. I suppose it’s a decent waste of ninety minutes, though it’s not as if you’ll be overcome by the story of Oz’s magical conversion to the most honest con-man who’s still really a massive con-man, nor Meg Griffin’s descent into madness.  I suppose the best message to come out of this movie is, “Never eat a green apple.”

Final review: 1.9

10 February 2014

New FAQ posted at GameFAQs:

Yeah, you know all those super-long posts about Civ V?  I organized them as best and possible and posted them as a strategy guide/FAQ to GameFAQs.com.  You can check it out by clicking on the link here.  By all means, if you have any comments or suggestions I'm more than willing to put them in the guide.

Coming in a couple days... a review for the anime Read or Die.

28 January 2014

Civilization V Tips and Walkthrough / Part 3 of 3

Walkthrough / tips for Civilization V: Brave New World

Episode 3/3(?)

So much for organizing my thoughts. Most of what I posted is beginning- and midgame tips and tricks. There's still some residual beginning-game material, but most of what is below will apply to the mid- and end-game, and your potential victory.

1. Happy Faces

Just a short blurb about this, because it is super-important. Happy faces pretty much control the game. Happier civs do more than unhappier civs, just like people in real life. Happy civs get to have golden ages, which increase money and production. Happy civs also get to add more population to the game... and as I've played, a civ's population goes a very long way to telling whether or not they'll win a game.

---Happy Faces, More Cities, More Population:

It's not exactly a newsflash that Civ winners are the ones that have more population than others. Having most of the population means that you are gaining the most science, or the most gold, or the most culture, or the most everything. Having more population means that you can generate Great People quicker as well... and cultural Great People benefit both tourism and culture (with the Culture discussion below).

Getting population points for all of these benefits requires the happy faces. If the happiness even dips below 0, all cities in a Civ take an immediate -75% in growth rate. There will be no new population born at this point... and you can bet that at the higher levels, none of the other civs will have this problem. (They'll likely be on their way to getting another Golden Age and further leaving you in the dust). If you're not growing in this game, you're on the path to not winning.

On top of that, in Brave New World rules, production takes a hit too... you lose 2% production per unhappy face, and I believe that you lose 2% of gold per unhappy face as well. So, if you get caught while building your colloseum, it may even take you an extra turn to finish it.

Building cities will give you an automatic -4 to your happiness meter, and it will also make your culture and Golden Age meters reset to higher numbers too. This isn't a build-and-forget game anymore, and especially in the beginning of the game you need to be super-careful where the next couple cities go, so that you can continue to be happy and growing. Also keep in mind that cities typically go from 1 to 2 in size extremely quickly, and from 2 to 3 in size fairly rapidly too... and typically as each point of population equals another unhappy face, planting a city without working on happiness (e.g. building Circuses/Colloseums, developing luxuries) will result in a -7 unhappiness within a short period of time.

---Methods for keeping happy:

There are quite a few easy ways to keep happy in the game. First and foremost is to develop all your luxuries as soon as possible. Each +4 that you can gain off of a luxury is four more citizens that could be gaining you production. Closely related to the luxuries are natural wonders, such as the Fountain of Youth (+10), Old Faithful (+3), and Mount Kailash (+2), though these are pretty rare to run across. Each natural wonder you discover gives you a permanent +1, so exploring a normal-sized map should give you a permanent +7/+8 or so depending on the terrain.

Building the happiness buildings is also important, such as Circuses / Colosseums. Circus Maximus is a national wonder, unlockable through building Colosseums in all towns, and gives an additional +5 happiness... so prioritize Colosseums over circuses when possible.

Trading luxuries is also an option in the beginning of the game, and through the game depending on how you play. There's no guarantee that the computer players will have luxuries to provide to you, so stay diligent in finding out when they're available! Luxuries can go one-for-one (e.g. I give you my spice for your pearls) with friendly/neutral civs and three-for-one with "guarded" civs. It's actually a good deal to get luxuries for luxuries compared to luxuries for money, because getting +4 citizens will give you more production than the 7 gold per turn you get maximum... but on the other hand, if you're close to 0 and the luxury is not renewed, going negative is definitely not helpful.

Happy faces can come in groups from the Culture tree as well. The main ones that provide happy faces include Tradition, 1/2 of capital population... Liberty, for number of cities connected to the capital... Honor, for troops stationed in each city... Patronage, which gives a +2 for all luxuries provided by a city-state, including copies... Commerce, which gives a +2 to all different luxuries you own... Exploration, which gives a +1 for all ocean-based improvements (lighthouse, harbor, seaport). The Ideology-based happy faces are Freedom, which is -50% unhappiness for all specialists, Order which provides +2 per monument, and Autocracy which provides +3 per Courthouse and +1 per defensive building (wall, castle, etc.), and all three are entitled to the "National Healthcare" policy of +1 happy face per national wonder (e.g. palace, National College, etc.)

Note though that you will not be able to access all of the happiness-based cultural bonuses. For instance, to get to the Commerce cultural bonus, you have to open the Commerce track and get two additional bonuses. There is nowhere near enough culture in the game to be able to obtain all of the happiness bonuses, so you have to pick your culture bonuses carefully.

City-states provide happy faces too. Be on the lookout for mercantile city-states because there is a +3 for just being their friend (30 influence). Being a full ally can net you +11 -- +3 from the friend bonus, +4 through their "special resource" (typically porcelain or jewelry) AND +4 from their land-based luxury. Allying other city states will get you the +4 for luxuries as long as it's not a luxury that you currently have. Try to cultivate relationships if at all possible, and allying city-states may not even cost any money. If you do have to pay off a city-state, keep in mind that the 1000 it takes for +50 influence may be better served in buying a colosseum somewhere, especially if it's the last city before you can build the Circus.

Religion can fill some of the gap, especially depending on the bonuses. Buildings bought with faith usually give at least +1 happiness, such as the mosque and cathedral, and the pagoda will give +2 happiness. Other powers include happiness based on temple/worshipper availability, or the number of cities if you created a religion and follow the specific tenet.

Wonders will provide happy faces, or at least decrease unhappiness. The biggies are Notre Dame, for +10 happiness, and the Eiffel Tower which gives you +5. Later in the game, the CN Tower gives +1 happiness and +1 population point per city... sometimes they do cancel each other out, but depending on the way your cities are built it can give extra happy faces. There is also the Taj Mahal, which offers a +4, and Chichen Itza also provides a +4. The Mosque of Djenne gives a +1 happy face (as it functions as "a mosque"). Neuschwanstein gives +1 happiness and +1 gold and +2 culture for all castles in a civ. Prora gives happy faces for those following the Autocracy ideology, +2 base and +1 for every two culture bonuses that you've earned. And building the Forbidden Palace will decrease unhappiness by 10%, but requires Patronage to be opened.

Lastly... free additional happy faces can come from the International Games World Project, which can be voted on in the World Congress. The International Games can give you a +6 permanent happiness if you finish silver and bronze -- which means if you get enough production to get up and over a certain number, whereby silver will follow bronze because bronze will be earned on the way to silver.

2. Culture (again?)

Yep, because there's more than just "build it in the beginning". Not only is culture the key to your culture tree bonuses, but it's also the key to defending yourself (and especially your government type) against touristy-takedowns and possible second- or third-place status. There are likely a couple things that I may have mentioned previously, but this will keep everything in one spot.

--The Culture Tree: Early Game

This is the area that I still have problems with myself. It feels sometimes that I don't play this part of the game very effectively... so feel free to take all of this with a grain of salt.

Firstly, I tend to stick with either the Tradition or the Liberty values in the beginning. Honor is good for maps with tons of barbarians, and you need to have a force in order to collect all that sweet, sweet culture. The Piety track... is somewhat surprisingly replacable without tons of extra effort, in my opinion. At the higher levels, the tradition track and the Republic track allow you to get happy faces and maximize production -- either through the food / Wonder bonuses with Tradition, or the increased worker / quickbuild of settlers setup with Republic. Both Tradition and Liberty give instant culture bonuses by just starting with the track, which makes both rather attractive too.

Tradition will do best on fragmented maps (e.g. archipelago), where you know full well that your city count will be anywhere up to about eight. Liberty does better at numbers larger than eight, though you have to work hard to make sure that your military keeps up with the settlers that you are pumping out. It would be good for continent or pangaea maps.

Honor does have bright spots, typically on the pangaea maps. Additionally, if you are an early militant Civ (such as those Huns or Aztecs we spoke about), Honor can help you nab cities early on, forgoing the necessity of settlers and even workers entirely -- when I play Civ V, invariably I will get a worker along with a city whenever invading as the computer players tend to pull their workers back. Just keep in mind that the only happy faces that the Honor track generates now is if you station your troops within a city, and that going to war may trigger your unhappy faces if your army is not large enough.

The Piety track offers pretty much zero in the way of food, or production, or even culture. You get a gold benefit with temples, and the end of the Piety track gives you both a Great Prophet and a reformation bonus. The Piety bonuses track well with Civs with larger numbers of cities. If you're feeling like you might get steamrolled with another civ's religion, choosing to open the Piety track (half-price temples/shrines) and choosing the Organized Religion bonus (+1 Faith from religious buildings) will stem some of the tide, but it won't completely put you in the clear. By that time anyway, you can choose between the next set of unlockable paths, the Patronage/Aesthetics/Commerce/Exploration group, which lead to better bonuses.

---The Culture Tree: Mid-Game

Of course, the same decision presents itself in the middle-game, and there are far more factors when deciding which of the PACE culture tracks to open.

The biggest and brightest line that I can draw is to tell you that the Patronage bonuses ARE NOT THE SAME anymore. In previous Civ V rulesets (Vanilla, Gods & Kings) you could open the patronage track, select "consulates", and when the resting influence points for all city-states reset to +20, you could then offer them protection, which gave you an extra ten points and allowed you to "friend" all city-states for free. No more! Offering protection only nets you a +5 for city-states, which makes it completely useless as a tactic... protection will NOT make your influence drop any slower, and is only really useful if a city-state asks for your protection (which rarely happens). Whichever update comes next needs to address this, as they need to have some sort of replacement for breaking this portion of the game.

Unless you're a Civ with specific city-state bonuses (Greece, Thailand) or if you've got a ton of city-states around you that aren't worth the time and effort to kill off, then and only then would the Patronage track be of any use. At least note that the Patronage track helps if you're building Wonders and want to put up the Forbidden Palace, though also note that the vote benefit that the Forbidden Palace gives you lasts perhaps two World Congress votes, depending on how early the World Congress starts.

Aesthetics helps those who are already playing culturally, or who need to catch up culturally. Half-production cultural buildings (monuments, amphitheaters, etc.) are really useful, especially if you're putting up more and more cities as you go along.

Commerce can help those who weren't able to get to the Caravan wonders (Petra, Colossus). Additionally, this style helps quite a bit if you want to field a larger army, or if you already have quite a few luxuries... gaining an extra +2 happy faces per luxury if you're already sitting on eight or ten can trip a quick Golden Age. Note that weirdly enough, there are science bonuses in the Commerce track (just like, weirdly enough, there are cash money bonuses in the Rationalism track) so it's pretty decent and well-rounded.

Exploration shines best on an archipelago map, especially one from medium to large size. Getting ships where they need to go is so important, it can make or break your war efforts (or defense efforts). Also, there are happy face bonuses, gold bonuses, and production bonuses within the track. Hidden Antiquity sites are also very helpful, especially since I've unearthed Great Works (not artifacts, but an example would be a Great Work of Writing) underneath a hidden antiquity site, and making monuments can really help your Culture score out too.

It takes a couple extra turns to get to the Rationalism bonuses. If your Science score needs a boost, then the Rationalism track can certainly help. You absolutely have to play in a certain fashion to get the Rationalism bonuses to work best for you though; you need to both be friendly to other Civs as well as rake in cash to take advantage of the research agreement boost. If you build the Porcelain Tower, there's TWO research agreement boosts that won't do you any good unless you sign research agreements. As well, the Rationalism unlock bonus is +10% science when your empire is happy. So... you cannot let your empire get into the unhappy faces, or the Rationalism bonus is kaput.

---The Culture Tree: End-Game

Once you pop up three factories, you can choose your own ideology. There are three flavors -- Freedom, Order, and Autocracy. They track rather closely with the Tradition-Liberty-Honor decision that you already looked at. Yes, the Freedom matches best with Tradition, and the Order matches best with Liberty. You'll find out why soon.

Typically, the Freedom track will assist best with small empires, as there will be happy face bonuses based on the number of specialists you have as well as bonuses for any Great Person improvements. There's a hidden bonus on the Freedom ideology that provides for six free supported units, and gives you six Foreign Legions (strength: 42) free. These six units get a 20% bonus outside home lands too, like the old French specialized unit. They can make a good defense force and an even better offensive unit. As you may note, this path would be best with cities that are >15 because those are the cities that have a high food value and can support the numerous specialists... also, these are the cities that were more likely to have generated the Great Persons with which the improvements were gained.

The Order track does best with large Civs. The main happy-face bonus here is a +2 for all monuments. If you have a fifteen-city wide Civ, and considering monuments are the easiest building to build, that's a +30 in happiness. Pairing the +2 Monument bonus with the +1 per connected city bonus (along with the 5% happier bonus), this brings the cost of each additional city down to one unhappy face... which is easily overcome with luxuries/happiness buildings. One of the other hidden bonuses with Order is a tourism bonus for other civs following Order, and there's a couple Science bonuses lurking. One is the original factories add 25% knowledge from the old culture-track setups. The other is allowing you to finish spaceship parts via Great Engineers rather than having to take all that time to build them yourself.

The Autocracy track does best if you've been gunning for a Domination victory for most of the game. This track is where you find the +1 happiness per defensive structure (walls, castles, etc.) that used to hide in the Honor track. Additionally, all courthouses generate an additional +3 happiness. Even better, all barracks, armories, and military academies give you a +2. If you have only two or three original cities and have depended on your military to take other cities, this is the way to go. There's also a hidden surprising Tourism bonus in this track, which gives you an extra Tourism boost each time an Artist/Musician/Writer is used. The Autocracy track also contains the +20% for 50 turns military buff that used to be in the original Autocracy track.

---Keeping your government, taking someone else's government:

Opening one of the ideologies first gives the Civ an extra two Culture bonuses on that specific path. Because of the first-one bonus, you often see all three ideologies used in the end-game by different civilizations. However, this is where the culture push matters, in the end-game. Civs that are culturally dominant over another civilization will have their government choice imposed on the other civilization too.

What is the penalty? Why, it's those same happy faces that limit your ability to spread all over the map. Depending on how culturally dominant one civ is over another, additional unhappiness is generated, all the way from "dissidents" to "complete revolution". For example, on "dissidents" level, you will take an unhappy-face penalty hit of 1 per city or 1 per every ten population points, whichever is *greater*. Worse yet, if you happen to be first to adopt an ideology but another Civ who is more culturally dominant than you adopts a different ideology, those unhappy faces will still appear and possibly derail your whole plan.

Losing your ability to choose your best-fit government is the reason that culture and tourism need to be focused on throughout the whole game. You also need to know soonest which enemy Civs are focusing on cultural victories, especially since one of the Culture bonuses in the Aesthetics side is a +15% tourism conversion bonus for either the shared religion, trade route, or open borders conditions.

On a recent game, I was only 8% influential over a Civ, while the Civ in turn was 23% influential. Neither was enough for "familiar" status, but this still caused my favored government type to be hit with the dissidents. There were two things that submarined me: one was that the enemy Civ went cultural, kept building the tourist Wonders and obtained the +15% tourism bonus. The other was, like a fool, I converted their cities to my religion early on in the game, so that I could reap the +1 happiness per every two cities bonus for my religion.

The options to deal with this include -- money to city-states for luxuries to make up the gap, increased tourism/culture to dilute the impact of the foreign civilization, voting your specific ideology as the "favored government" in the World Congress, or... you guessed it, war to wipe them out. If war is your answer, make sure you're aware that for an immediate impact, every single city needs to be wiped out. If you make peace, then you will have to wait for your culture to stabilize against the enemy civ. If you manage to take their capital and/or their major culture/tourism generating cities, you will have to wait additional turns because then your culture will dwarf their own, but everyone still has their same slider bars until they don't exist.

This game is super picky about the culture gain/growth. If anyone anywhere near you has a higher percentage, even by a few points, that is enough to get your civ into a dissidents situation. In another recent playthrough on Emperor level (6), I was only 14% culturally beholden to the nearby Iroquois, whereas they were roughly 8% culturally beholden to me. This was enough to give me -12 happiness based on dissidents. This became a major situation because I was sandwiched between two strong militaries and could not sacrifice the -12 happy faces in order to ensure that they were weakened enough. So, my major tip here is to make sure to completely eliminate any Civs who might be a problem to your ideology going forward, or at least weaken them so much that their culture will crater while yours will recover in time to invalidate the unhappy faces.

I will admit though, this situation is completely ridiculous and should be rectified. The other half of this is that their tourism number was a grand total of 1400, whereas my tourism number to them was 1100. Big felching deal, right? The "however" though is that the Iroquois in my playthrough went up the Aesthetics tree and obtained the +15% tourism bonus. This should not be enough for me to crater my own happiness though, you stupid game. Better to take anyone out that could have the same effect before any real damage happens.

If you happen to be in the position of culturally dominant over others, then you get to not only choose your government but also make sure that you can influence others to choose the same. The for-instance is that there are gold bonuses for trade routes between Freedom civs, or tourism bonuses between Order civs. As well, if someone decides to choose a different path, then they will likely have a massively unhappy population, making them an easy target for conquest, unable to grow, or even more interesting enough... allowing someone to pick off their cities culturally.

Which leads to.... there are such things as culture flips for cities once again! This used to happen in Civ 3 quite a bit, and could in Civ 4 (IIRC), but was not possible in Civ 5... until now. Getting below -20 happiness will start the timer going, and in a set number of turns unless the victimized civ gets back above -20 happiness, the Civ who is most culturally dominant over that unhappy civ will receive one of the unhappy civ's cities. I have been on both sides of this equation, in receiving cities as well as having lost cities this way. Keep in mind that if you desperately want your city back and can't seem to get back to the -20 you need, you can park your military around your city that will flip to immediately take it back again. The penalty to this is that you will end up at war with the culturally advanced civ, you will lose half your population, and lose a majority of the buildings that you built in the city previously. I like this dynamic as a historically-accurate possibility, as getting a city back after a revolt could cause a war with another civ, and how many times in history have revolts been speedily crushed with only a portion of the persons left.

---Culture conclusion:

There are quite a few things that you can do with culture even through the end of the game. If you get to specific Wonders (Eiffel Tower, Broadway, Great Firewall) and/or specific technologies (e.g. Internet), your tourism numbers can shoot up like a skyrocket. However, playing against someone culturally depends on more than just your tourism number, you need to pay attention to that culture number throughout the whole game. Culture exerts your will in the end-games, prevents others' tourism from victimizing you, and is pretty necessary for a victory.

3. Playing to conquer, defending against conquering:

In order for a Civ to win militarily, they must control all other enemy capitals. Compared to previous games, where you had to literally wipe all other cities from the map, this is a far-easier requirement. I have had to chase Civ cities from Arctic to Antarctic in games long past, which turned into a slogging mess.

---Defending against a playing-to-conquer player:

Is the easiest thing in the game, really. Just make sure you have enough military to keep your territory and capital. You can get cities all the way up to 200+ defensive strength through buildings and culture. Defend everything you can with ranged units, best would be through the hand-carried range weapons -- e.g. the archer/compound archer/crossbowman/gatling gun vector. These units combine the ability to go offensive without taking damage along with the ability to take a hit without dying. However, once the pure siege units get to artillery stage, set up three of those behind a town in danger to wipe out the better part of a front-line unit per turn.

If you know where your invasion vectors are, don't be shy in setting up either forts or the Great General special building fortresses. Fortresses can stand tall for a good while with a good front-line defensive unit, and can be made effective putting an archer or other sort of ranged unit inside too. I kept the Aztecs off of me (and bottled up!) for an entire game just through setting up a fort on a hill directly in front of my town, and keeping it manned at all times. It did lose me one shield per turn production through the game, but by the end of the game the Aztecs only kept three cities and were completely swayed by my culture regardless.

Playing-to-conquer civs have a rough time with culture, with happiness, and with cash flow. If you see a civ that is bullying other civs around and amassing a large empire militarily, make sure that you can equal or beat their culture first and foremost. Past that, you can funnel troops to city-states that are embroiled in the current war, especially if it is a city-state warring against the big behemoth in another corner of the map. I have conquered other computer Civs that end up paying attention to the city-state thorn in their side, not seeing the headman's axe swinging to their neck. If you have enough production that you can supply a city-state, allying with them and declaring war on a large behemoth can give you a country that is in a two-front war that they likely don't want to be in.

Playing-to-conquer civs will also have problems with world opinion, though there's a caveat. The playing-to-conquer civ will sometimes have friends that benefit from the conquering civ, and the playing-to-conquer civ can sometimes squash world opinion in their direction. World Congress world opinion can be swayed by your money though too, and you can certainly weaken a military civ through the World Congress (e.g. standing army tax, specific luxury embargoes, World's Fair, culture bonuses for Wonders, etc.)

---Winning through military:

If you're playing to conquer, you see the weaknesses you will encounter above. You need to neutralize the happiness issue first, foremost, and constantly. Secondly is the money issue, especially when other Civs can buy off city-states and make them into thorns for your sides. Thirdly is the World Congress issue, with the same tourist/culture/luxury embargoes that can cripple your war effort. And of course, trying to keep up culturally is important, though your military can snuff out the cultural threats.

Note that playing to conquer actually has a benefit in starting early. Waiting for ranks of artillery pieces to strafe the opposition will piss off everyone else in the world immediately... but if you catapult an enemy civ into submission, especially one that did not have contact with other Civs early in the game, then your world opinion will be far higher because you will not receive the warmonger penalty. What's out of sight is out of mind for the most part in the beginning of the game. Though, I did run into an issue in one previous game...

As the Ottomans, I conquered a continent which held the Byzantines and Venetians. Both fell before the might of my catapults and swords. After finishing off the Byzantines, I had a challenge on my hands to take down a puppeted Venetian city that was well-guarded by hills, and I knew I could not take too much damage if I wanted to still take Venice while at the same time continue to compete culturally with the rest of the unexplored map. While positioning my troops, Venice got alarmed and asked if I was going to declare war. I said "no, of course not!", finished my positioning three turns later, and declared war. I did not take any sort of warmonger hit for defeating both Venice and Byzantium... but for the rest of the game I took the sneak attack hit to my diplomacy. So, remain honorable while beating up the other members of your continent, or you will have the same diplomacy hit.

The sooner that you can direct a continent's worth of cities against other, smaller civs, the more effect you will be able to achieve.

Continuing with the "sooner" theme, you have to make sure that if a civilization is running away from you technologically that if you're planning to go after them with military, you do it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more technologically backward you will be. Better yet, if you declare on a country and they can get their military at you, you'd rather destroy their war machine in your own home territory (where they can't heal as quickly and where you can have your cities hit them just as hard), so that you can march against their lands and either extract a diplomatically-won city or continue pressure and occupy more lands.

Waiting though is logarithmic... typically, technologically advanced civs can come after you not only with more advanced units, but can also produce them quicker due to production-bonus buildings (e.g. factories, Ironworks, etc.) gained through technology. Waiting an age could then mean that there are 33% more troops and they're 33% stronger, instead of one or the other. Additionally, civs in peace will feel free to pursue science maximization, whereas civs at war will not turn production to "science" and gain additional test tubes in that fashion. It's even okay to declare war, wait for them (or threaten them along your/their borders), just to get them on a war footing to weaken them going forward.

---Technology slingshots:

When a new technology comes available for you, especially if it is a siege technology, you need to capitalize on it as soon as possible for greatest benefit. Having spare money around is extremely important for the upgrade possibilities that this provides. Planning invasions around mass technology upgrades will also give your army an edge in defeating an enemy sooner... there's nothing more frustrating than ineffective bombardment against an enemy city that newer technology could complete far sooner (and with less casualties), especially since every turn you spend in enemy territory kills your units that much quicker.

For what its worth, obtaining Flight first will also give you a bit of an advantage, especially against foes that are stubbornly resistant to shellings from artillery pieces. Just keep in mind though that new planes are prohibitively expensive (recent game on King, each bomber was 980) and bombers do take damage when attacking, unlike the siege pieces that are out of range. At this point though, just as Flight comes available, it is possible to hammer a city through six to eight turns with one artillery piece to ensure a city cannot heal plus the two planes (hopefully with the City bombing bonus) alternately shelling and healing... enabling you to take the city with either a cavalry unit or a boat at the end.

If I were to characterize, on offense it is more important to get your siege units upgraded than it is your front-line units (e.g. musketmen, riflemen, great war infantry, infantry). On another recent game, I ran into this very situation, where it ended up being cavalry (at 34 strength) against infantry (at 70 strength), and the difference was the fact that I could aim four artillery units at the infantry and drop it in one turn... then go back to shelling the city. Of course you do not want to find yourself in this position too many times, but I also knew that this was the one civilization that was more advanced than other civs and I wouldn't be having the same problem as my war machine marched on to the next civ.

For archipelago maps or extended sea battles, stock at least three or four privateers. They capture ships! It's so crucial to be able to not only down someone else's ship, but to be able to use it against them. In a recent game against England, who must've sent the better part of fifteen Ships of the Line against me, my Privateers managed to capture and keep about four or so. Important because Computer England kept building naval units to send against me, while I was free to build both Eiffel Tower and Broadway to ruin their cultural victory approach.

Privateers work even better against lower-level ships, triremes and galleases get taken very easily. Why is this part of the technology slingshot section? Taking the computer's galleases can transform your all-melee navy into a ranged force with melee escorts. Better yet, advance once from galleases to get frigates. Advance twice to get battleships. Only paying ~650 gold or so per battleship? For four battleships, 2600 gold, that's about ten turns or so of good gold generation, and you haven't even wasted a single turn of production making them. Battleships have a 65 ranged attack and a 3 range, so you've pretty much got an invasion fleet with those self-same privateers running sub interference, though you'd better get your own subs in the water shortly thereafter. For those playing militarily, privateers are amazing on archipelago/continental maps.

Try to make the privateer take the killing blow on all ships everywhere unless your privateer is too short of health. You can capture bigger and better ships with the privateers (example: the previously mentioned Ships of the Line), though make sure you don't send your privateers too far forward if you want to keep them, and defintely do NOT count on them winning ships because it's never a sure thing.

If you can find a barbarian camp that's pumping out ships? It may as well be your own personal shipyard, especially since you get a combat bonus against barbarians and more often than not, they're pumping out lower-level boats. If you find any of these places in the polar regions, feel free to send a privateer or two to "recruit" a few barbarians into the national navy. Dutch Sea Beggars are especially good for this, since they also come with the "Supply" promotion, allowing you to heal +15 outside of friendly waters. (The "Supply" promotion is pretty key for all naval melee units, really.)

Technology slingshots also work if you're not playing militarily. Keeping four triremes close by until you can research astronomy will enable you to gain four caravels for roughly ~1000 gold... and more importantly, zero *delay*. Better yet, have one or two settlers plus one or two front-line troops plus a worker or two ready to embark at the same time, and you can build two pretty solid cities and hopefully beat everyone else to any prime spots. (Note -- if Spain, disregard and just build your Knight+Settler Conquistador units as you were before) Plus, now that the World Congress is unlocked via finding all civs, if you're on a continent or archipelago map with unexplored space and a possible Civ lurking, then you could reap the benefit of the caravels even further via opening the World Congress in your own capital. At the very least, those same Caravels can find you the Natural Wonders, upping your happiness, and perhaps gaining influence with City-States.

---International opinion:

Getting into war, especially in the later stages of the game, will mean that other civs will like you less. This will increase the costs of luxuries (or decrease the selling prices of your luxuries). This will also mean that the World Congress votes will increasingly be against you, such as luxuries that will be banned, or ideologies that aren't yours being voted upon. There's ways to make them like you more... and ways to get them so hopping mad that they wash their armies up against your cliffs like so many waves.

If you are warlike but also want to keep some friends, the best way to keep it civil is to accept when other civilizations ask you to declare war on third civs. This is ideal, because then you have an ally going in as well... and the civilization asking you to go to war will not hold it against you in the future (that I have found). There are times that I've been asked to go to war and found myself pretty much squishing another civ to dust, because EVERYONE has been called in and we've made it a world war. Those are ideal, especially if you can win the prize (the enemy capital) at the end. Note though that there's a set number of turns that you have to remain at war against another country, you can't ask for peace immediately after declaring.

If you want to get the rest of the world pissed off at you quickly... find a well-liked , well-protected city state and pound them into submission. At that point, it's all military, all the time for a good ten-twelve turns, if not more. You will take an extreme warmonger hit too... but if you want a way to gain quick territory and weaken everyone's army, this is the method. More territory will come when you completely neuter a civ's army and march menacingly towards their lands, as the computer will often (but not always) panic and offer cities to placate you. If gaining nonspecific cities is your goal, then invest in cavalry units to keep pressure on these other civs and pillage land, and that will make them even more likely to offer territory for peace.

4. Playing to win culturally - defending against a cultural loss:

Culture is a game-long phenomenon, and if you are trying to play culturally you need to start early. I would counsel that you play most games as if you're going to try to dominate culturally, because you can step into a cultural victory depending on the late-game circumstances, and making sure that you have the culture will lessen another Civ's tourism hold on you.

---Defending against a cultural Civ

To be honest, this is one of the harder things I can think of in the game. A civ that is trying to win culturally is using their production advantage over you in the best possible way. They are researching and gaining techs with less Science points than you need, and they are producing buildings with less production points than you need. There are two very good pieces of news when defending culturally.

{} You only typically have to defend against one.

If two or more Civs are playing culturally, the Tourism points will not be anywhere near the point that you will be in cultural danger. Spreading out the tourism wonders (Parthenon, Louvre, Uffizi, Sistine Chapel) among two, three, or even four different Civs will not give them anywhere near enough tourism points to mess with your culture.

BUT.... be very careful you know who is who. If there are more than one cultural civs against you, it's well within the game mechanics for one to invade another and seize all of the culture. At this point, it's directed against you, and you better have a Plan B going.

{} It's hard to build the culture AND a military

Unless you're WAY up the difficulty chart, the computer will have a hard time building both culture and military. This is your chance to come at them sideways, so to speak. They may think that they're in a battle with you to get as much culture as possible. Declaring war on them has the benefit of making them now build military, whether or not you advance into their lands or defend your own. They'll also research militarily, which will keep them from the cultural/touristy Wonders. You'd better advance at SOME POINT if you want to force them, though, or they may take the threat very casually and either not build military or research military tech.

At this point, you can use the benefit you have in spades... the computer's inability to fight very well. Your production deficit will be made up for in spades by your ability to general, your ability to PROTECT YOUR TROOPS, and the computer's inability to come after them with a cohesive front.

Typically, playing culturally means that you are going up a different side of the technology tree than most other people. The biggest for-instance is that it takes quite a few technologies to earn artillery pieces when you could be researching printing press / architecture and gaining the wonders available from both. If you are aware that someone is playing culturally and you KNOW full well that they will get those wonders done, go up the military side of the tech tree to take those wonders away.

Be careful though, if a nation is rich they can conclude multiple research agreements quickly... also, if they are scientific and just building culture when it's available because they can, there's no guarantee that you will beat them to any specific research. It could be a planes versus artillery piece battle, and in that situation you will lose miserably.

{} Going nuclear

...I'm assuming. I've never tried, but to be honest there were a couple of times that I should have, as I was losing anyway. Make sure that you have the troops to be able to capture a city after you go nuclear at least, as I'm not entirely sure a Civ can win if they have lost their original capital. I might update this one, especially if I playtest a couple of those previous games mentioned to find out how this dynamic works.

---Winning a cultural victory:

When winning a cultural victory, you should have a few things in place:

{} The Aesthetics culture bonuses.
The +40%, double Theming bonuses, ability to purchase Great Persons with faith, and the +25% generation rate will give you quite a leg up on your competition. Similarly, if any of the computer players are playing this way, sniff it out as soon as possible and mitigate/neutralize it.

{} Wonders, wonders, wonders
There's a couple of National wonders that carry theming bonuses, including the Hermitage and Oxford University. Those two together are nowhere near enough for you to gain a victory, especially if only one other computer player is hogging all of the Tourism wonders. There's a couple of tactics you could attempt if you are having problems getting the tech and production in time:

-Send spies to the cultural civ's cities-
Spies can pull their technology, and if you're behind you'd better at least make sure you can get to the technology previous if you need to try to take theirs.

-Research agreements-
This means you have to be nice to other people... I'm guessing that if you're having a problem with research, it's because you have a smaller empire than others... well, the small non-threatening ones are the ones most likely to have friends too. Start shifting your productions toward gold in at least one city so that you can give gifts, or give away extra luxuries, or anything else to get others to like you. After the friending, ask for those research agreements as soon as possible. Multiple research agreements can pop a technology or two.

-Rationalism track-
There's no happy faces down this way anymore, so only do this when necessary. As stated above, make sure your empire is happy to get the full benefit of Rationalism policies.

-Great Engineers-
By setting one of your cities to pure production along with filling the Workshop slot, you can generate a Great Engineer... who can rush a project to completion in one turn (or to five remaining turns late in the game) in any city you wish. Just make sure that you spy out your competition to confirm that THEY'RE not building your same Wonder, there's nothing more useless than rushing a Wonder project to have another Civ build it on the same turn.

Gardens (next to river/lake) will give you more Great Persons, as will the National Epic.

{} Great artists/writers/musicians

In order to win culturally, make sure that you're generating as many of these units as possible. Each is worth a +2 in tourism without any theming bonuses, and all three are actually fairly useful even if all of your slots are filled... artists pop Golden Ages, writers give you a one-time Culture boost that should get you more than halfway to the next Culture bonus, and Musicians give you a Tourism boost by sending to another civ (with open borders!). Again, maximise their appearance with gardens and/or the National Epic.

{} Build those cultural buildings quickly

Getting the Hermitage should be high on your list of priorities, and the other culture buildings give you the slots you need to fill with your Great Artists/Writers/Musicians. The Aesthetics bonus of quick-building cultural buildings should help quite a bit as well.

{} Artifacts

When Archaeology is obtained, you can start producing archaeologists and sending them abroad. My typical method is to build the archaeologist, then the museum... you can send an archaeologist to foreign lands first to take artifacts that other people would get to while "guarding" your own ruins by placing units on them. But, make sure that you have the spots for an artifact first! There's nothing worse than an archaeologist on the back edge of nowhere that ends up with a built shrine that no one can use.

So, keep in mind a couple of things... you can pause your archaeologist in the course of their excavations by interrupting him, just like you would a worker. Make sure that there's a place for the resulting artifact, and then get back to work. Another thing is that it's not always bad to "gift" a cultural landmark to either an enemy Civ or to a city-state. Gifting cultural landmarks to other Civs is a permanent good check-mark in your box, and if you are playing against another cultural player it can make the Civ you give the landmark to more resistant to cultural takeover. It can also hopefully give you a friend to conduct more research agreements with, or to trade with. City-states will get a +50 (?) or so as a one-time influence bonus, which can certainly go most of the way to an alliance. Just make sure you're choosing the choice you want, because giving any artifacts away like this is a -2 to culture and a -2 to tourism that you could be earning.

{} Hotels / National Visitor Center / Airport

Hotels will convert culture obtained via Wonders into Tourism points. As you can imagine, if you've been building nothing but Wonders in a city, a Hotel will dramatically raise your Tourism score. The National Visitor Center is a national Wonder that requires a Hotel in every town and will raise your Tourism score much higher. And the Airport will also give you an extra 50% Tourism (if I remember the bonus correctly). The Airport also has military implications as an automatic tube for your troops (to go from one town with an airport to another town in only one turn) as well as expanding space in your town to support more than four aircraft units.

{} Great Firewall / Internet

The Great Firewall is a wonder that can allow you to make up a gap in tourism, especially if the game gets as far as The Internet. Internet is a technology that can be researched now, which will double your Tourism score permanently. The Great Firewall will ensure that the Internet bonus is invalidated for the Civ that builds it. As you can probably imagine, if the Great Firewall falls into the wrong hands, you'll have a rough time earning a Culture Victory over that other Civ.

--Cultural Endgame:

I've noticed, on King level, that when I play culturally that I will typically end up winning before Internet. I don't know how that is possible so often except for the fact that I involve my military quite a bit, especially to deal with the Civ that's either in first or in second place. If you have pretty much every Tourism wonder, a group of computer players that haven't cared about culture at all and one last computer player that cared but had all their culture taken from them at the point of a gun, the Culture victory actually becomes rather easy and earned even before the game counter reaches 2000AD (on Standard turns mode). I have also noted that when I make it this far culturally, there's typically not a Civ that can stand with me militarily, nor technologically, nor financially either... I can pretty much choose my method of winning.

--Last notes:

If you are not playing culturally, I would suggest paying at least slight attention to the tourism of your civ, and trying to at least match the tourism rating of the best enemy Civ. This will ensure that you will not have governmental problems, it should allow you to operate your spies easier, and the culture that you will generate should give you quite a few bonuses that will make the game easier to win. Additionally, if you match the best tourism Civ, it will ensure that the best tourism Civ will not be able to win a Cultural victory, freeing your resources to win in another method.

5. Playing to win financially -- defending against a financial civ

The Diplomatic victory in Civ V requires pretty much every single vote you can glom from the city-states in a game. There's ways to buff your vote (build/capture Forbidden Palace, vote for world ideology, vote for world religion), but the vast majority of the votes for you will come from the city-states. Almost always, you need to buy the heck out of these votes, though there are tips and tricks you can use to help you with your vote.

Of course, there's the first level of this...

--Defending against a Diplomatic victory.

There are a variety of tricks that you can use in order to defend against a civ gunning for a diplomatic victory. First and foremost is your ability to ally with other city-states to block their votes going to the enemy Civ in the lead. At some point, the money does run out for the enemy Civs and if you can manage to keep a few of the city-states from their hands, that will make their victory much more difficult.

If you are having a problem with the sheer financial weight that the enemy Civ is putting on those city-states, then you do have an alternative. Make sure you can ally with at least a couple of city-states to block, and then declare war on the larger Civ. You will absolutely have to reposition your caravans / cargo ships as they will be taken wholesale by all the other city-states who remain allied with the enemy Civ, but declaring war will make them "peace-blocked" with the city-states that you just allied with, and leave them a few votes short of the goal. Just remember though, they'll likely be in charge of the World Congress and they will start to use it politically against you... try to get as many other civs on your side as you can, and defend against the city-states(!) that will be sending units to your shores/borders.

If you do declare war on the enemy Civ, then take the opportunity to try to blockade them. You may not be able to get all of the caravans/cargo ships going to their shores from other Civs, but you can absolutely plunder the enemy Civ's trade routes in an attempt to cripple them financially.

The last alternative is to start conquering City-States that are allied with the enemy Civ. I have heard tell that there is a bit of a strategy to this.... in that if you have to take four or five of them, you already know that your honor will take a massive hit... so bribe some of the other civs with the city-states that you take. All you care about is that their +2 votes are wiped out... and you don't want to take massive hits to your happiness, but you are stuck with city-states because they can't be razed. If you give them to other civs, then you can be sure that they will get involved if the enemy Civ tries to free the city-state and you'll have somebody on your side. Just make sure that if you start giving away city-states that it can be reasonably defended by the third Civ you give it to. Also make note of the fact that your influence will take a permanent hit for all other city-states if you do this too much, so you'd better go quite a distance towards that goal or not at all, because allying (and therefore blocking) city-states will cost more gold.

--Winning a diplomatic victory:

The diplomatic victory depends on tons of gold and tons of happiness from your city-state friends, as well as your ability to defend them in times of trouble. As a result, the following methods are pretty decent:

{} Always have max caravans/cargo ships

You need to make as much money as possible, which means caravans and cargo ships. On top of that, caravans/cargo ships will give you the ability to earn Influence with city-states as they ask periodically to receive trade from you, and fulfilling their wish gives you a +40, two-thirds the way to allying (or forty further turns of happiness). Make sure that you have the requisite buildings (caravansary, harbor, East India Company) in the towns that you base the caravans in, and that those towns are as well-developed by workers as possible.

{} Complete the majority of their quests

This means having a decently strong military in the early-going to hunt out those barbarians. Beating up barbarians also nets you gold and there is the off-chance that they will have a city-state worker in their camps... if you complete a camp-clear and give the civilian worker back to the city-state, it's an automatic alliance.

Keeping the decently-strong military is a must, especially since there are some civs in the game that prey on city-states... Mongols especially, as their natural Civ bonus is +30% strength against city states. You need to be able to either feed military to the city-state being attacked or to be able to fight off the Civ with the strong military attacking the weak city-state.

If you're able to do so, there are scientific, faith, and culture-collection bonuses for the city-states as well. They're a free +40 in influence for you not having to do anything, though you have to have the ability to collect the requisite resource.

{} Free the city-state!

If a city-state is taken, it's not the end of the world... it's actually not a bad thing, because at any time during the game you can swoop in and liberate the city-state. On top of that, you not only get zero war-monger penalty for the city-state liberation, you get any current war-monger penalty erased because of your magnanimous nature in bringing the city-state back. I am almost positive that you get a massively high influence bump from the military action, but I can honestly say that I do not remember whether or not you receive their votes on all future "leader" elections in the World Congress.

[Quick tangent... once upon a time, I was finishing conquest of Austria, who had allied and then diplomatically married city-state Sydney. I went after Sydney before going after Vienna, and freed Sydney because I did not want to carry the extra unhappy faces from a puppeting. Immediately, Sydney declared war on me. See, Sydney had been allied with Austria prior to my liberation of Sydney due to the marriage function, and I was still at war with Austria. Point being... make sure that you know what the status of the city-state was prior to your liberation of said city-state, especially if it was obtained via Viennese marriage.]

{} Religion:

There are a couple of religious tenets that you can use to help your relationships along with your city-state brethren. One is to spread your religion at double-rate within city-states, and another provides additional influence to city-states. Just keep in mind that as long as you share a religion with a city-state that your influence will fall less quickly, by about 25%. Additionally... it doesn't necessarily have to be *your* religion, just a religion, so if you find a Civ going hog-wild with the converting, just go along for the ride (yet protect yourself against the enemy Civ's possible cultural victory). Additionally, using your city-state friends to establish a world religion will give you an extra +2 votes if you follow that world religion.

{} Culture Tree:

There are two tracks that you absolutely need when playing towards a diplomatic victory. The first is the Patronage track, which will magnify the bonuses you receive from befriending all of those city-states, and the second is Commerce. You need all that gold to keep being nice to the city-states, right? One of the Commerce bonuses include the ability to create Great Merchants, which still can perform trade missions to give you gold and influence boosts... or you can just park the Merchant at home as a Customshouse to reap additional gold.

I prefer Freedom for a diplomatic victory as an ideology, for a couple reasons. One is that you will get happy faces for cash-based buildings (markets, banks, etc.). Another is the New Deal bonus, giving extra abilities to Great Person-improved tiles... because if you've already gone down the Patronage track, you should hopefully have received more than a couple of Great Persons from your city-state allies. On top of that, all of your cities should get the happy-face bonus from having pretty much permanent workers in your banks and stock markets.

{} Wonders:

There are a couple of financial wonders and also an influence wonder, but oddly enough this set of wonders is the most dependent on outside factors.
Netting Colossus is extremely important in the early-going, as having that extra caravan slot as well as the gold that the Colossus generates naturally and via the trade route bonus is super-important...... but you need to have a city on the ocean in order to build this Wonder.

Obtaining Petra can be helpful, and it is straight up the tree where you need to be (it's on Currency) in order to earn more gold. However, you not only need to have a city in desert, but this is a Wonder that other Civs typically prioritize because of its ability to turn a terrible desert city into a well-producing city. It nets you an additional Caravan route, so if you do not get it, you're not going to be overly affected.

Machu Picchu is also rather helpful, as it will give you an extra 25% gold from all of your connected cities to your capital. Machu Picchu requires a mountain nearby though, and there's no guarantee that you can find one... it's oftentimes less accessible than Colossus, and I have played games where there was pretty much only one legal mountain to build this Wonder on, and as a result it was not completed until the 1800s. Weird, weird.

Popping Golden Ages can help immensely, and having them last 150% of their time is rather helpful... so building Chichen Itza can be a good idea for this method of victory. Also, Taj Mahal gives an immediate golden age plus happy faces for growth.

Obtaining the Forbidden Palace is extremely helpful as well, because that will provide +2 extra votes as long as you hold it... and getting to the high number needed for your diplomatic victory means that you need to obtain every single vote that you can.

{} Great Persons

Obviously, the previously mentioned Great Merchant is a big help, both as an ongoing source of gold and as a one-time influence boost. Great Artists can also help, as they will enable Golden Ages for large gold boosts and you can replace all artist tourism slots with artifacts.

{} Other civs:

Declaring war in a Diplomatic game is not the best of ideas. Of course, if you have a war declared on you there's not much you can do about it, but whenever war is about, the caravans and cargo ships are the first to go. A strong enough military should dissuade most civs from going after you... but you've got to be smart about it, because military costs gold upon gold, and you're trying to funnel it to the city-states, remember?

With all the gold though, make sure to befriend and to conduct research agreements. Getting behind in science can cost you gold on the military end, as the military cost is per-unit (if I remember correctly). As well, you can at least use that military to guard your trade routes if necessary too.

You do need to keep a lookout for spies. More and more influence prevents spies from coups, but there's always that chance that a successful coup can pull a city-state away from you for free. Station spies in city-states that you know another civ is competing for, or in city-states where a few extra influence could put you up and over the top of ally status. (Bonus, go on the offensive with your spies in city-state lands... if you lose a coup attempt, five turns later you get your replacement)

Feel free to move spies about... what's nice is that there's the omnipresent counter for the World Congress, and spies can be useful in enemy capitals as diplomats... you can trade for votes and get a good idea how an enemy civ will vote. The more culturally-influential with a Civ you are, the quicker your diplomats set up shop.

{} Globalization -- discussed below.

-- Cultural endgame:

The Globalization technology will boost the available votes by the number of spies you have working as diplomats in enemy civ capitals. It comes right at the end of the game (as with Internet). And same with Internet, you'll have to be ready for either using Globalization to your advantage or negating its effects when it comes up. Having all the gold in the game will make production quite easier, especially with the Big Ben wonder, so your difficulty in making sure you're militarily and technologically caught up should be minimal. Just remember though, it's not a percentage of votes that is necessary for Diplomatic victory, but a number... so even if you gain three votes via spies, if another civ gains five and gets up-and-over the number necessary, you're still sunk.

-- Last notes:

Greece and Thailand are the biggest profiteers of city-state bonuses and will often play diplomatically... but don't get suckered in. Greece will often play militarily first, diplomatically second, and the Thailand "Naresuan's Elephant" is deadly in bunches. Oddly, I don't see the computer players often playing diplomatically... so there aren't too many instances that you'll have to defend against it.

There are very few other Civs that have natural benefits to playing diplomatically. Portugal, perhaps, due to their "feitoria" bonus has a stake in making sure each city-state stays free and independent, and the monetary bonuses that the Moroccans receive would help them quite a bit towards obtaining/maintaining influence.

If you're making money hand-over-fist and have a bunch of City-States as your thralls because you have good religion and/or good culture, then it may just be the best option going.

6. Playing to win technologically -- defending against a space race loss.

Unlike some of the other methods, playing for the space-race win means that you're not going to hamstring your other efforts overly much. The way that the tech tree shakes out, you need to get both purely military (e.g. dynamite) as well as purely aesthetic (e.g. archaeology) technologies in order to gain the technologies for building the Space modules. The danger here is that the major cultural bonus technologies and the major diplomatic bonus technologies veer off from the space technologies at the end, so you need to defend your culture and defend diplomatically while at the same time building your Hamdinger pod. [/MST3k]

--Defending against a space race loss:

The space race is a weird duck because after a while, you can earn technology by yourself and it's not dependent on others. The diplomatic victory is dependent on other's ability earn gold and/or deploy spies, and the cultural is dependent on obtaining those bonuses... without them, your culture numbers will still probably be larger than another civ's.

The other bad news is that a technologically advanced civ probably managed to get to many techs first and likely put up at least a few Wonders, so they may not be very weak culturally. You do still have a chance though, even if the enemy Civ managed to get four of the six modules done.

The most major weakness for the Space Race provision is that all of the parts go to the capital. Therefore, if the capital is taken, all of the parts to the spaceship are also taken. I do not know if it is weak to a nuclear attack, I'm sure that at some point there will be a nuclear addendum to all these posts.

At any rate, going after a Civ militarily will tie up the most important thing for them, which is production. If you can't pile up the shields necessary for each of the spaceship parts, then you won't be able to gain the win. Just make sure that if you can't win quickly that you draw the computer into enough of a stalemate that you can survive many turns this way and keep the computer from completing what they need to complete.

If another civ is already on their way to a technological victory, remember that there's a shortcut lurking in the Order culture track. One of the third-level bonuses (which takes three first-level plus two second-level bonuses to unlock) is the ability to rush spaceship parts with Great Engineers. If you have taken care of your faith through the game, you may find yourself with enough to purchase multiple Great Engineers (given the correct policy track) and therefore finish multiple spaceship parts. There is a similar shortcut in the Freedom track, where you can use money to pay for spaceship parts, though I don't have a whole lot of information about this possibility at present.

--Winning a space-race victory:

As with all of the other victory types, in order to win a space-race victory you need to have a few ducks in a row. Some of the more specific ducks are...

{} Technology gathering

You need to have cities bring in the better part of 100 science per turn toward the latter part of the modern era in order to get the science you need to get to the space technologies first. Of course, make sure that you load up one of your towns with all of the latest in tech gear, including your libraries, universities, public schools, and research labs. Make sure you prioritize those technologies so that you can set up your researchers as soon as possible.

{} Getting everyone else's technologies

Send spies to try to clean up the techs on the tech tree that you don't need just to make sure you are keeping up, leading to...

{} Don't forget to keep researching militarily

There's nothing worse than trying to fight off riflemen with crossbowmen. It's absolutely not worth it. If you get left in the dust a bit too much militarily, prepare to get invaded.

{} But make sure you have friends.

Friends that want to conduct research agreements, at least. Of course, in the discussion above about culture, it applies to the military side as well... you don't want civs getting too overly comfortable, or their production/food/technology bonuses will shortly overwhelm yours. Two of the Rationalism culture bonuses -- the ability to build the Porcelain Tower as well as one of the specific bonuses -- give +50% for research agreements, and you don't want to miss out on that.

{} Don't get left behind culturally

If you do, you will lose some ability to choose your final Ideological government, and leave yourself open to losing culturally. Try to at least keep up tourism-wise and make sure that you can keep ahead of any civs trying to play for a Culture win by rejecting things that you can *keep track of*, such as making sure you can reject open-border treaties as well as changing religions if at all necessary/possible.

{} Culture bonuses to pursue:

The Rationalism track is a must. As well, try to get as many happy faces as you can, both for keeping the +10% research bonuses as well as continue growing, as your citizen count goes a long way towards your science gathering. I would also suggest that a good bonus to pursue would be the Patronage bonus. If you are able to sign up a bunch of city-states to your cause, they all donate 25% of their science output to your research. Getting this research, especially from about six to eight cities, would be almost like getting an extra two cities' worth of science. Getting the occasional great scientist through the great person bonus would also be extremely helpful. As well, this will hopefully help you to implement the World Congress policies that you will be looking for, including the scientific research bonus and the International Space Station (though, stay away from the "visiting scholars" bonus as that will allow the computer to catch up to you quicker.)

{} Religion:

The best path to follow here is to obtain the Religious Dialogue power, which allows your missionaries to generate science when they spread religion to cities with an established religion. I've seen missionaries generate +200 science at times using this power. Another interesting bonus is when you complete the Piety track to gain a Restoration power... the Jesuit Education power allows you to build science buildings via faith. This can be helpful because you don't have to take a few turns to switch your production from science to shields... but the on the other hand, through the Commerce track, you can just build the buildings via cash money instead. You may as well stick to the Patronage track.

--End game and notes:

It is very possible that the special technologies to upgrade culture (Internet) and diplomatic (Globalization) wins will come available to other civs before you manage to uncover all the techs you need for the various spaceship parts. This means that you need to be just as concerned defending against those as getting your tech win. Make sure to sniff out cultural threats as soon as humanly possible, and if at all possible drag other civs against the forty-pound gorilla to make sure that you can score the victory. Keep expanding in the method that you've chosen (through growth, or militarily) and don't lose too many opportunities.

7. Outro

Wow, this really swelled, didn't it? I stayed true to my word, it is a three-part series... as long as you ignore the fact that part one was perhaps half this size or less.

As I said in one of the previous walkthroughs, to me this is really the ultimate puzzle game, with so many moving pieces... it masquerades as a world-building game, but it could as easily be Alpha Centauri with completely different, redesigned civilizations. Heck, since they already redid Colonization with the Civ IV engine, couldn't they redo Col with Civ V along with redoing Alpha Centauri?

At any rate, feel free to discuss, question, or blow raspberries. So far these tactics have done well for me, as I've made the move from level 5 (king) to level 6 (emperor)... and hopefully I'll continue swimming rather than sinking. Maybe some additional strategies will come from this... as above, there are more than a couple places that are unfinished, and I may update them once I find out more.

In summation... terrific, complex game that will keep you thinking about all of the possible paths. Highly recommended... and it will be difficult for the designers to top this for the next Civ 5 expansion, or the inevitable Civilization 6.