"Caesar, during this game you have displayed the leadership abilities of Dan Quayle!"
I wasn't quite sure how to respond to this. It seemed like a joke, and I suppose to an extent it is. The important thing was that Dan Quayle was at the very bottom of a list including much more illustrious leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Caesar Augustus. It seemed the game was trying to tell me that I hadn't been much of a leader.
That's how my game ended--a bittersweet triumph. I was victorious, but only because I lasted until AD 2050. In my defense, though, I didn't just "last" until 2050; I thrived. Rome was the largest, most populous, healthiest, happiest, most technologically advanced civilization in the game. It manufactured more goods, it yielded more crops (food surplus, anyone?). Four of the Top 5 Cities were Roman. I built the United Nations and was elected Secretary General. (Resolutions enacting global free trade, universal free speech, universal suffrage, and universal free religion were passed on my initiative, though I tried twice for diplomatic victory and failed to get enough votes.) I improved my settlement strategy and captured six different cities on the North American continent (and took a fiendish pleasure in watching their musket men shoot ineffectually at my tanks). I even made good progress toward a space race victory. I was top in virtually every category, just not top enough.
So victory wasn't as sweet as I would have liked. But when I step back from my wounded pride and take a good look at my Rome, I realize that my civilization had all the hallmarks for dominance that Diamond discusses in Guns, Germs, and Steel: plenty of food surplus (and the land to grow it on); a large, sedentary population; and the resulting organizational, technological, and cultural advances which arise from the food surplus and the myriad people. (The game doesn't take into account diseases. That's probably too complicated for it.) Rome was squarely on the path for dominance and glory. But, in the sage words of Will Rogers, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."
Something else I've learned: There is a difference between "defensive diplomacy" and isolationism. I realized that I had been resolutely isolationist when my scores reported that I imported 319 million tons of gold worth of goods . . . and exported a grand total of zero. Yep, definitely something to work on in the future, especially if I ever want to achieve a diplomatic victory.
In sum, I take a certain pleasure in having won my first-ever game of Civilization IV, and I marvel at how closely the events in the game correlate with what Diamond argues in Guns, Germs, and Steel. In future games, I will experiment with openness and aggressiveness to see what combination yields the best results. Finally, I intend to achieve victory by other means from now on, if only to prove that I'm a better leader than Dan Quayle.