Now that I'm past the first 100 turns political offers seem to be turning up with greater frequency. I hate negotiating with AI civilizations so I have decided to appoint former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson as my diplomatic advisor. I cannot afford actual Alex Ferguson so I am, instead, opening his book, A Year In The Life: The Manager's Diary, at random and reading until relevant advice presents itself.
The first person to make overtures is Queen Victoria. She seems to want tea (obviously) and money as well as Piphaven (also known as Cumae until Firaxis return the ability to rename cities). I feel like this is a pretty poor deal but I decide to let Fergie have his first crack at international politicking.
"I then spoke to Martin Edwards and said: 'Can't you put a brake on any negotiating with Coventry until after the European matches – or at least until we know what's happening with Scholes, because if he's badly injured , we will be very short of players?'"
I'm taking this to mean that Fergie does not want to negotiate with Britain right now so I refuse Victoria's deal. Philip II immediately pops up to offer me money and borders in exchange for tea. I realise that I have been reading the negotiation screen wrong and that Victoria didn't even want Piphaven. I will just have to trust that Alex knew what he was doing in turning her down. That still leaves the matter of Philip's tea to settle, though.
"I was a guest at the Marks & Spencer centenary celebration."
I feel like this is Fergie saying we should take the deal. He is pro-commerce and hopes it lasts a hundred years.
I build a cattle ranch and start wandering towards more hexes infested with tea crops. Victoria seems to sense that more tea is in the offing and pops up again, asking that we make our friendship official.
"I don't think we can afford to go and get carried away, but I think it's terrific for the fans and I know how Brian Horton felt because I had a chat with him after the game."
I decline a formal friendship as that seems to fit the not getting carried away remit.
After that it feels like the AI is stuck in a weird cycle, demanding friendship, mocking my military, being impressed by my military. It's feeling really unco-ordinated.
Then English Protestant missionaries wander into my amphitheatre and suddenly I have +400 Protestantism to deal with. I have no idea if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I mean adding Christians to Roman entertainment arenas was often not great for the Christians for a fair while. Although it's swings and roundabouts I suppose given the later adoption of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire.
I'm faffing around for a while, just building and developing without a clear plan so it's a bit of a relief when Philip II rocks up to offer a shared open borders policy.
"There's so much intrigue when dealing with agents – that's why you try to avoid having any contract with them. It would be far better to have a system using the knowledge inside the game rather than having to go outside."
I'm wondering whether "contract" is a typo for contact, but the paragraph is about negotiating contracts so who knows. Am I trying to avoid signing a deal with Spain? Is this about using inside knowledge in the sense of abusing the insight that an open borders policy could provide? But I think Fergie is leaning the other way. The section is about not having information leaks and outside influences affecting how you do business, so it's going to be closed borders for the moment. Sorry, Phil!
And then I'm in the bit of the game where I suddenly have two Great People wandering around and I can't seem to find where to put them or activate them. One is a poet, but he doesn't seem to like any of the squares I put him on, even though they seem to fit the bill when I check the Civlopedia. It is only later that I see that some hexes are highlighted, indicating that the Great Person should go there. I think the problem is that when there is no-where for them to go and you don't know the highlight system, there's nothing in the game info to teach you that that's how it works and so you wander, baffled.
Another Great Person is a tech specialist and it is while trying to find somewhere to put him that I realise one of my campuses has been wrecked. How did I not even notice that happening? I consider consulting Alex Ferguson on that one but then I remember that he was looking in a different direction when Eric Cantona kicked that spectator so he'd probably just tell me that sometimes you're just looking in the wrong direction. I guess at least Rome's Great People won't get a suspension or 120 hours of community service over the campus destruction.
Spain wants more tea but will pay less money this time around. I feel like Spain clearly just doesn't want tea that badly in that case. I consult Fergie because otherwise what am I paying him for? He seems to be keen to talk about commerce.
"I had lunch at the Midland with the Royal Bank of Scotland, then I went shopping trying to find a present for Cathy. Absolutely hopeless. Nothing in Manchester. Then I went into Hale. Nothing! In the end I found a jacket in Wilmslow which I just hope she likes."
I'm not sure who is Spain in this analogy. Is it Fergie? Is Spain trying to find tea to impress a lady and is checking in with all the major diplomatic powers before settling for a jacket from Wilmslow? I refuse the deal. If Spain is out a-wooing then I don't fancy a-wingmanning. He can go find whichever other civ is a stand-in for Wilmslow instead.
Victoria has come back asking for more tea. She's like a brew-seeking missile. I turn to Fergie to find out what the plan is:
"There is a problem with Nicky Butt."
I mean, I'm sad to hear that but it seems very much irrelevant to our current predicament so I ask him to leave his own problems at Old Trafford and concentrate on the bigger picture.
"Phil Neville will come in for his first Premiership game tomorrow. He is an outstanding prospect."
I feel like this is a positive response. He's saying Victoria's deal is an outstanding prospect so I take it. Further positivity also leads to an open borders policy with Philip and Spaniard start to appear on my hexes. ("I had to think about whether to freshen things up by making changes for tomorrow." - which sounded like he was changing his mind regarding Spanish access).
But then more Spaniards arrived. And then more. Meanwhile, the English seemed to be queuing up along my south-western border. I wasn't sure what the protocol would be for summoning Fergie without an actual offer for him to advise on, but I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable.
That said, Victoria seemed to have stopped being cross about my soldiers as I'd moved them a short way back from the border and had recently informed me she really loved what I was doing on our shared continent.
So it was sort of a surprise but also not a surprise but really yes a surprise because there had been very little consistent build-up and pretty much zero consistency in messaging from the AI civilizations when BOTH of them declared surprise war on me within a few turns of one another.
And that is the story of how Alex Ferguson got fired from his job as foreigh secretary for the Roman Empire.