I am Siam. For now.
With luck, I’ll still be Siam in a few years. Maybe I’ll be dead. Dunno.
Now, I’ll tell you up front, I haven’t played Siam before – in ANY game – and I really have no idea if I’m going to get smashed by Burma, or the UK, or CHINA!!! This may be a really bad idea, but at least you’ll have fun watching me get my head cracked in. But maybe it won’t happen! Maybe I’ll be okay.
However, this isn’t my first try at getting through the first few months as Siam. This is about try number 6. Took me a while to adjust to being not just an Unciv, but to being a minor Unciv. Special problems, etc. I crashed the economy the first few tries. And, yes, I wrote the Strategy Guide. So if you crash the economy on your first couple games as a newbie, you’re in good company.
How’s Siam look? Pretty good, all in all. It has an economy and some reasonably valuable goods. It’s got a good army. Large enough, in fact, that I’m beyond my Supply Limit and taking Attrition, just from sitting there! One of my first moves is to send an army off into the bushes so they use another province’s Supply Limit.
Huge China to the north, separated from me by idiotic little Luang Prabang. Burma to the west – a deceptively peaceful looking sleeping giant. The UK. Don’t get me started about the UK. China’s the Boa Constrictor. UK is the pit viper. They can crush me in a Bangkok minute if I don’t either distract them or ally with them or something. Thankfully, they have about five dozen potential enemies and/or distractions, so I’m hoping I’m going to have a little time to come to accord with them.
Dai Nam is a reasonably strong power to the east which I’ll have to keep an eye on, and they hold Cambodia as a puppet (which I would otherwise try to snap up as a morsel). Down south, you’ll see I have even more borders with pockets of UK colonies and Johore, who I’m not sure what to make of yet. Separated from me by a small rivulet called the Singapore Straits is the Netherlands East Indies. They’re a potential threat to me, but hopefully they’ve got enough to keep them occupied on Borneo, along with their other small neighbors.
Now… Early game Budgeting.
Initially, I’m going to shock you. Now, that’s not to say I won’t continue to shock you. In fact, I’ll probably shock you in a variety of ways, on a pretty regular basis. But that’s me. That’s a Rensslaer AAR – get used to it!
All that stuff in the Strategy Guide (yes, the one -I- wrote!) about pegging your Education and/or Administration sliders at 100% (and probably military spending too)… Throw it out if you’re playing a minor!
It just won’t work. There’s an initial-game “bubble” which makes it look like everybody’s happy, the budget is “made”, there’s money free to take for all POPs and governments and the free spenders aren’t sure if they’re awake or dreaming…. It’s NOT REAL! After about one month (in the Guide I suggested 2 weeks – nope, it’s more like 1 month in this patch), the World Market will settle down and you’ll have hit an equilibrium where people pretty much know what they’re buying, for how much, and they don’t have to guess any more.
Until that happens, you shouldn’t really have any idea what your eventual budget will look like. Any major power probably won’t have to adjust very much, because they are “big ships” – they can ride out those economic storms with a few slider adjustments. Not so for a minor. If you don’t prepare for it in the very beginning, you’re going to be down from the very beginning, staring possible bankruptcy in the face!
So I’m going to start my Defence Spending at 40%, my Admin and Education will remain at 50% for a while. Tariffs hiked up to 15% right away, and Taxes on the Poor up to 75% at start. Sound harsh? Sorry. We’ll fix it later, once we’re no longer in an emergency.
Now, Siam starts off with around £500 in the Treasury. At £33 a day you’d think that would do quite well (and it will!... for a few days). But I’m preparing for the storm I mentioned earlier (yes, the one I didn’t properly prepare for the first 3-4 times). I tried different settings, and each one eventually either got me into serious financial trouble, or left me with serious financial malaise, which just isn’t what I’m looking for.
But surprisingly, you’ll see this Budget work out for me. Watch. There are three classes of people who are pretty happy right now, and I’m not going to be able to shake them – Bureaucrats, Clergy (Educators), and Soldiers. So long as they’re happy, and receiving their Needs, I don’t really have to increase their budgets. And you’ll notice some other stuff about those sliders as we go on.
Remember in the Strategy Guide where I talked about Uncivs maybe trying Cultural Techs as their first Techs? Where maybe that would get them the Prestige they need to succeed. Forget that. For Siam, at least, and any other minor Unciv. That may work for China. Not for us. I tried it in one of my earlier games, and Siam just doesn’t have the Research Points to accomplish even that one Tech before the 1860s. That’s useless. By then, other countries would have it and it wouldn’t help me.
So I do what everybody else says to do (and I said this too, as a primary recommendation for Uncivs) – Freedom of Trade.
I’m going to avoid attaching myself to any other powers right now, unless I get a really lucrative offer from a big guy (like the UK!). I don’t want to get dragged into any wars, and these folks who are offering – Bali, Brunei, Atjeh, just don’t have the power or ability to help me in any way. I’ll ignore them.
By the end of the second month, I’m still finding it a little difficult to manage the Budget without seeing concerning declines. My initial boost of income (the £33 a day) quickly got cut in half and then disappeared altogether. I did get my Treasury up to around £1000, which I’ve been trying to maintain since then. The Taxes I’m getting from each class are pretty short right now, but they’ve stabilized. That’s not a long-term stability, though, and I’m going to have to make more adjustments.
Lower class taxes up to 80%, and I think I nudged the other classes up slightly. Look at that Middle Class pie chart. Those are “starving Artisans”. That actually doesn’t concern me very much. A lot of my lost income (that “bubble”) was from Artisans realizing they couldn’t make money doing what they were doing, or that they couldn’t afford the Inputs, etc. Now I have a lot of unhappy Artisans who are really poor and Demoting. But there are a few – those happy few – who are building Furniture or Luxury Furniture, and they’re doing quite well. I’m not going to bore you with images of my Population charts. That’s most of what’s apparent from them, except for the fact that many of my POPs are only barely getting by – what do you expect at 80% taxes?!
Later, you’ll see me gradually lower taxes to start allowing them to build my economy. Right now my Budget is driving Taxes, rather than the other way around. This is an initial stage, and I couldn’t run my country like that into the future and still be successful. Just have to get through this first stage without losing my whole Treasury, and then we can start playing with the Budget for real!
Around my region, I find that Atjeh and Johore have allied. Not sure if that will be helpful to either of them. It might help UK more, or the Netherlands, if one or the other of them gets into war with one they’ll get to acquire parts of the other too, if they want. Easy expansion into Unciv lands for a Great Power.
I’m more concerned by that Alliance between Luang Prabang and Burma. I was really wanting to take on Luang Prabang – they’re a weak power which I feel I can abuse at will and aggrandize myself against! However, I’m not ready to take on Burma. They’re too powerful and I most certainly wouldn’t want to face both of those countries at once, if only because Luang Prabang adds a lot more geographical space I’d need to cover (and I’d be tempted to try to knock them out of the war first, because they’re easier to beat). Too complicated. Oh well. Let’s see how things develop.
By May 18, my Budget is more or less under control, but I still need to make more minor adjustments to keep from losing my £1000 Treasury. Lower class taxes still at 80%, Tariffs bumped up to 20%, Defence Spending lowered to 15%. There appears to be no hindrance to my Military for having these numbers so low (I’m sure there’s some Demotion that’s not apparent to me, but nothing that’s crippling my Military so far). Notice my Administrative Efficiency – I’m still at 50% funding, but Efficiency has gone up to 8.9% (from 8.3% at game start). That means that at just 50% funding I’ll eventually gain more in Tax/Tariff income anyway. This is what ultimately tells me this Budget strategy will succeed – I’ll eventually reach a point where I’m better off than I am now, even if I’m only maintaining my Budget settings at equilibrium right now.
Think of it as one of those drama-scenes with the airplane trying to take off from a grass field with trees just ahead of it. You’re not sure if you’re going to make it, and you’re climbing very slowly, but at some point you realize you’re just barely going to clear the trees. Once that’s done, it doesn’t matter how slowly you climb – you at least know you’ve got enough power to keep from crashing!
And by July 29, we start to see that happen. There’s been a barely perceptible switch in the level of our daily balance, but as the Budget Graph shows, the key difference is that it’s now in the positive, not the negative.
In fact, it’s such a consistently positive switch – partly due to basic economic conditions, probably (maybe my Artisans finally settled into different Demoted jobs and are finally making a profit as Farmers?), and partly due to my ever-increasing Administrative Efficiency – that I’m going to start making minor changes to “lock in” my economic improvement.
I could, obviously, keep taxes as they are and keep building my budget. But I’m betting on the fact that I’ll do better on the long term (this is a basic economic fact) if I reduce taxes enough that my POPs can start having more of their Needs met and can start making better profits, etc. If they’re less stressed, I’ll get more use out of them – hundreds of thousands of little exponentially increasing bank accounts – than if I leave them as they are. They’ll also gain less Militancy.
And so, after 7 full months of playing as ruler of Siam, I’ve successfully gotten through the initial game economic instability (no fault of the game – just a complex system finally reaching equilibrium) and have my Treasury increasing and my taxes being reduced. My people will become more happy. I can start looking to other things around the world which may be of use to me…
Oh, wow! Look at this!
My problems, as noted earlier, have been solved. My worst possible enemy (UK) is suddenly at war with my nearest credible enemy (Burma)! To make things more cheery for me, Luang Prabang has violated their treaty with Burma, breaking their relationship. Dai Nam too. That means I’m offered an opportunity, which I’m not going to pass by.
You’ll notice I let 2 months pass between the beginning of the war and my decision to intervene – that’s because I wanted to get my economy solid for sure before I attempted any adventures.
I begin to move my armies into position to attack Luang Prabang.