Team #1: athlete4life and kalin, Willem of the Ottomans. I know these two players from their involvement in the previous Realms Beyond PBEM and Pitboss games. Without spoiling too much information from those games, both players ran into some difficulties in their previous endeavors. athlete was one of the weaker players in the PBEM game, and kalin got into a bit of a brinksmanship showdown with Krill in the Pitboss #1 game, which didn't end too well for him. In terms of pure Civ4 skills, this is probably not the most dangerous team out there.
On the other hand, they've managed to land a very strong combination of civ and leader picks. I had Willem (Cre/Fin) ranked as my top leader, and Speaker had him ranked second, so this is a very strong pairing of traits. Financial is golden for a self-research game like this, and Creative provides both free cultural expansion (skip monuments) and cheap libraries. Those libraries are key, as they get the early research advantage and that snowballs into other first-to tech tree bonuses later on. Furthermore, athlete and kalin managed to pair Willem with the Ottomans, a civ which unfathomably remained until the very last selection! We already explained above why the Ottomans are an excellent choice with their musket (draftable!) unique unit and +2 happiness unique building. Plus, athlete and kalin will benefit from being the only Creative team in the game, meaning their borders can dominate all comers.
I think this team will do OK in this game, all things considered. The experience that athlete and kalin got in their previous games will no doubt come in handy.
Team #2: Broker33 and Plako, Gandhi of Korea. I have some contact with both of these players as well, Broker from RB Pitboss #1 and Plako from Team Saturn in the CivFanatics Demogame. Broker did well in that game to get into a strong diplomatic alliance, however his civ's development has been a little on the weak side. Plako was (and is) one of the major voices and turnplayers for Team Saturn, but that's maybe not a strong recommendation as Saturn is the last-place team in that game and has really made a mess of some things. (Apologies to any Saturn readers, but it wasn't a well-played game!) This is perhaps not the most fearsome team either.
Unlike the first team, Broker and Plako didn't get a power combination of civ and leader. Gandhi (Phi/Spi) is simply a weak choice with the #2 leader pick; maybe OK for one of the last leader selections, but there were MUCH stronger options with that second pick. There's no Financial to boost commerce, no Expansive for quick workers/granaries, and no Creative for the border pops and cheap libraries. That is, none of the 3 top-tier traits that I had in my own personal ranking, which is probably a bad sign. That's not to say that Spiritual or Philosophical are bad traits (heck, we have Philosophical as well!) just that there were better leaders out there with that early pick.
Korea is actually OK for civ pick #10, since most of the best selections were already gone. Not as good as the Ottomans, of course, but not bad. Pairing the seowon with a Philosophical civ isn't a bad way to go, although the unique building comes pretty late in the game to be decisive. The hwatcha offers a minor advantage, nothing special. Since this team doesn't have much in the way of economic advantage, it's going to be their Civ play that makes the difference. With no disrespect intended to Broker and Plako, I don't think this will be one of the power teams. We'll see if they can prove me wrong!
Team #3: Jowy and Yazilliclick, Pacal of Greece. I don't know anything about these two players, so nothing more to be said there. They are true wildcards entering this game, which could make for some excitement. Their selection of Pacal (Exp/Fin) was an inspired choice; I had Pacal rated #2 and Speaker had Pacal rated #1. We really would have liked to get this fellow, for the awesome combo of Financial along with cheap granaries and workers. Two of the three power traits, you can't do much better than that!
The Greeks are a much weaker civ choice. There's nothing particularly special about either the Phalanx or Odeon, so I really wonder what the inspiration was for this choice. It seems like there were much better choices out there; aside from the Ottomans, I also would have looked to the English perhaps as a better pick. Inca would have been the perfect combination, but of course they were already long taken. Anyway, as the previous paragraph indicated, I just have no clue what to expect from these two. I expect they will surprise us!
Team #4: DMOC and Nakor, Darius of the Holy Roman Empire. I know DMOC from Team Saturn in the CivFanatics Demogame, where he is another active participant in their team forum. Given Saturn's fate, that's perhaps not the greatest endorsement in the world, but who knows, this game could well be different. I don't know Nakor at all, another newcomer and wildcard to Realms Beyond.
This is one of the obvious Unrestricted Leader pairings, Darius (Fin/Org) with the Rathaus of the HRE civ. While no doubt it's a good one, in all honesty I think this pairing is overrated. Organized may be a good trait, but it's not uber by any means, and on only Monarch difficulty the maitenance savings aren't super useful. Honestly, I think the cheap lighthouses and factories are as good as the cheap courthouses, and with us turning off most Espionage for this game (no spies), that cuts down the value of having cheap access to Espionage Points significantly. The Rathaus, while good, is severely overrated in my opinion: on paper it looks incredible, yet in-game the effects never seem to be all that noticeable. When I played as the HRE myself in the past, I was underwhelmed. Getting faster Rathauses doesn't make all that much difference either. So yes, this is a strong economic pairing, but it's not as good as you might think right away. Watch the game and see how it plays out in practice; hopefully I'll be proven right on this. All in all though, these were not bad selections, just a little predictable.
Team #5: Iamjohn and Kodii and Zeviz, Mehmed of Inca. Here we have the triplet team, which took forever to make their civ/leader selections! All of these players are longtime RB veterans who have been part of numerous ventures in the past. Zeviz is probably the one I've spent the most time with in the past, and made some good contributions to the Apolyton Demogame team. Zeviz leans a little bit too much towards one main theme ("build more cottages!"), which may end up hurting a non-Financial team. Kodii has some great games in his past, yet he is/was part of the mostly_harmless/Kodii team which played a very silly opening in the RB Pitboss #1 game, and really should have been eliminated early on by their nextdoor neighbor. Overall though, I think this is a solid team composition, one of the better ones in this game.
Kodii's bunch was the one that made the unusual selection of Inca with the fifth pick, opting to forego their leader until second. The obvious reason was to get the Terrace, the best unique building in the game, which practically serves as a mini-Creative trait with its broken free culture. Unfortunately that meant that this team got the 10th and last leader pick in the game, and that really did hurt them. To take Inca with such an early pick means that you need to grab Expansive with a leader, for the cheap granaries, yet they were really hurt by seeing so many of the good Expansive leaders fall to other teams: Pacal, Peter, and Shaka were all off the board by the time it got back to them. The next-best Expansive leader left was Suryavarman (Exp/Cre), yet that would have been a waste for them because Inca nullifies the desire for Creative trait. Thus they made the best of a bad situation by taking Mehmed (Exp/Org), which is not terrible, but the Organized trait can't be what they wanted. Losing out on Peter (Exp/Phi) to sunrise's team was the real blow, since that would have been the perfect selection for them.
Overall this team should be fairly strong too. Inca is pretty good and they do have the cheap Expansive granaries (err, terraces) so they should be OK. In their situation, I probably would have argued for ditching Organized and going with Joao's Imperialistic trait for full-out city/worker spam mode, but I'm glad they didn't do that! Even if the maintenance costs would be rough, it would still have been tough to play against.
Team #7: Mortius, Ragnar of the Zulu. I don't know a whole lot about Mortius; he played in a couple of our SP games a while back, and did quite well, but he had been very quiet until recently with the start of the Pitboss activity. I'm not sure what to expect from his style of play.
The pairing of Ragnar (Agg/Fin) with the Zulus is a mixture that has potential both for early rushes and longterm development. Impis can be a total terror in the early game: hook up copper immediately, chop out a swarm of them, and choke your nearest neighbor to death. But that's likely to be a losing strategy in this game, as even if you do defeat another team, your own development will be slowed to the point of gaining no advantage. Aggressive impis are more dangerous, but only slightly; as spears, they will still lose to axes with or without the Aggressive trait. It's almost an unneeded addition, really, as impis aren't units that will be attacking cities anyway. But of course Aggressive applies to more than just impis, and drafted Gunpowder units with free Combat I could be a real danger later on.
The Financial half of the leader pick provides some economic boost, as does the Ikhanda unique building (which is rightly paired with Aggressive for the cheap bonus, since Ikhandas are slightly more expensive than regular barracks). Like the Rathaus, however, I've found the Ikhanda to be somewhat overrated in terms of fighting maintenance costs. 20% reduction is at most 1gpt saved in the early-to-mid game, and while every bit counts, that's hardly a gamebreaker. The Ikhanda actually gets the most benefit later on, with things like corporation maintenance reduction, yet by then you've probably either won or lost the game already, haven't you? Anyway, this is still a pretty good pairing, but (to me at least) the impi rush is the biggest threat, along with late Aggressive conscripts.
Team #8: Dantski, Julius Caesar of Mali. Dantski is another longtime veteran of Realms Beyond, with some Pitboss experience from the first RB game (although regoarrarr has done most of the work there). I would probably say that Dantski's Civ play is neither exceptionally good nor exceptionally bad, but rather very solid, usually without any big mistakes. Unfortunately, Dantski has the single worst leader/civ pairing in this game!
Julius Caesar (Imp/Org) wasn't even remotely on the list of civs that we were looking at. While it's true that being the only Imperialistic civ might help in an early settling race, there just isn't that much value in this trait for a long, epic-style game. Organized helps, but only so much. Much as I like the historic Caesar, this leader gives up Financial, Creative, Expansive, and Philosophical: every single other leader in the game has at least one of these four traits! And that's no coincidence, as these are the best traits for economy and early expansion. Out of the six possible combinations of these four traits, we have four of them present here (Willem [Cre/Fin], Pacal [Exp/Fin], Liz [Fin/Phi], Peter [Exp/Phi]) lacking only Suryavarman [Cre/Exp] and Frederick [Cre/Phi]. These weak traits are going to drag down Dantski.
Furthermore, there was no reason to pick Mali, especially with with #2 civilization pick!!! Honestly, this was probably the worst decision in the whole snake pick, guaranteeing the #9 leader selection in order to take a weak civ which unquestionably would have still been there on the return trip. Mali's skirmishers are decent units, but they have two real uses in a MP setting: to choke someone else, or to defend against a choke attack. Since rushing and choking are likely to be self-defeating strategies in this game, the skirmisher doesn't have great value. Mali's unique building (Mint) is OK, but no one is going to be raving about +10% gold, which is another 1gpt boost at best in the early game. There's a reason why civs usually get picked by unique units, not buildings...
Dantski might end up doing well, but he has a major uphill climb ahead of him. I anticipate this team struggling a lot, unless there is some mystery super-plan that I'm not seeing.
Team #9: LiPing, Shaka of Rome. Well, here is your rush civ for RB Pitboss game #2! Shaka (Agg/Exp) has the max aggression early rush traits, while Rome provides the Praetorians for the smash power. LiPing is making an awesome power play for typical Ancient teamer MP game. Only problem is that this isn't an Ancient MP game, and once the Classical age is reached this team has nothing left going for itself. (Just look at how not successful Imhotep has been in the first Pitboss game, where he followed this picking strategy.)
I think that LiPing has simply gone about approaching this game the wrong way. Even in a MP Free-For-All epic game, played Always War style, the winner is invariably the person who can out-tech the others and establish a military lead that way. You simply don't win these types of games by loading up on Ancient age power units, because even if you do manage to take out an opponent, you've simply managed to maintain parity with the other teams who are expanding peacefully. Early aggression is a zero-sum losing game, in my opinion: the only way to win is not to play that game.
Speaker and I simply have to hope that we don't start next to LiPing and be subject to an early attack! By the medieval period, this team should be starting to fall behind technologically and no longer remain a threat.
Team #10: regoarrarr, darrelljs, and sunrise, Peter of Byzantium. The team of all lower-case names! Here we have what looks to be by far the most dangerous opponent in the Pitboss game. darrell is very good at all-around economic stuff, regoarrarr is excellent at diplomacy, and sunrise knows the military side of the game quite well. All three of them were on the Apolyton team, and regoarrarr and sunrise were highly influential in our eventual victory there. Their picks show that they know what they're doing, and will pose a major threat to win the game. In an ideal scenario, this team would join with us and we would carve up the map together!
For a team that had the seventh leader pick, they did very well for themselves. Peter (Exp/Phi) is a leader that Speaker tabbed for us to consider if we ended up down at the bottom of the snake pick, tagging up Expansive's worker/granary power with easy access to Great People. Speaker and I were divided on where Peter was better than Suryavarman, but we both agreed that this was near the top of the non-Financial leaders. As far as civs go, Byzantium was my #1 choice, which they stole away from us! The cataphract unique unit is one of the best in the game, and completely dominant in the medieval/early Renaissance period. There's literally nothing that stands up to it; even a pike only gets even odds. Everything else in that era is slaughtered. I want no part of this team when the cataphract first appears on the scene! The hippodrome unique building is quite good as well, with +1 happy innate and another +1 happy from horses. I wish that Dantski would have taken this civ with his pick, just to deny it to sunrise and crew. (Although then they probably would have taken India, which would also have been a good selection.)
Overall, this would be my top prediction to win the game - after our team, of course. It's just a very strong combination of players, leader, and civ.
Some last interesting tidbits... After the run on SEVEN Creative leaders in the first Pitboss game, there's only one in this game, and that turned out to be Willem. No Industrious leaders at all, meaning everyone is on the same level for wonder-building (good news for us). Getting to techs first will likely decide who gets the wonders, although we have an edge for the early ones with our Fast Workers' ability to chop chop chop. The big increases were Financial and Philosophical, as everyone pushed for the leaders with traits that boost economy. Most of the selections were pretty good, with only the Broker/Plako and Dantski teams being on the weird side.