One of the recurring questions that we've had about the AI Survivor games involves their degree of randomness. Based on the same starting positions in each match, how much of what happens is predetermined based on things like leader traits, leader personalities, peace weight differentials, and so on versus how much is simply due to the sheer chance of how dice rolls shake out? I don't agree with the individuals who have claimed that these games are nothing but pure luck, however it does seem clear that the AIs sometimes behave in very unusual factors in individual games. From Season Three alone, we had situations like the initial game where Ragnar decided to attack Stalin, a neighbor with a very similar peace weight, while ignoring Ramesses on his other border who was settling right in his face with a diametrically opposed peace weight. That threw the first game into chaos and upset the balance of what everyone expected to happen. Would the same thing happen if we played these games out again? Let's test to see what would happen if we were to simulate out some of these same games a few more times and record the results.
The methodology here was simple: restart these games with "Preserve Random Seed" left unchecked to get different results on each dice roll, then simply watch and record what happened. These are going to be bite-sized reports to condense a bunch of them into a single page and minimize the workload on my part. If you're interested in doing your own experimenting, feel free to download the starting savefiles in the Conclusions Page and poke around to see what you can discover. (By default they all have "Preserve Random Seed" turned on, which will require creating a new Worldbuilder save file and loading that to uncheck it.) We'll start by looking at Game Four from the season that just concluded.
Game Four Preview
Game Four Livestream
Game Four Writeup
This was one of the games that I wanted to investigate in more detail. As a quick recap, in the actual Game Four we generally expected Montezuma to get crushed by Justinian and then either the Byzantine leader or Catherine would go on to win the game. Instead, Montezuma managed to get peace with Justinian after a single early war and survive all the way to the finish. Catherine founded a minority religion that no one else practiced and eventually suffered elimination from Justinian, who won a crushing Domination victory after an early conquest of Darius snowballed him ahead. Louis and Saladin fought a series of inconclusive wars for most of the game before Louis ultimately prevailed thanks to an Apostolic Palace worldwide war declaration. Roosevelt sat in the corner and defended himself against Cathy over the course of three wars, then was eliminated by Justinian in the closing turns of the game. It was surprising that Louis managed to finish in second place in this game, and perhaps even more surprising that Montezuma avoided getting himself killed. Would the same pattern hold true with repeat playings of this map? Would Catherine manage to emerge victorious in an alternate history, or would someone else entirely climb to the top of the heap? Let's find out.
Settling patterns held essentially the same in this game as compared to the original. Montezuma still launched his early war declaration against Justinian, and Catherine her early invasion of Roosevelt. However, this time Justinian did not sign peace with Monty after taking a single city. Instead, he continued on to the Aztec capital and then used the Apostolic Palace to launch a Christian-wide attack against Montezuma. With Saladin, Louis, and Roosevelt joining in, Montezuma was left splattered all over the carpet and ended up being the First to Die at an extremely early Turn 127:
Darius claimed the killing blow, although Justinian had been the main beneficiary and had done almost all of the heavy lifting. Saladin and Louis went to war with one another frequently in this world, with Saladin slowly getting the upper hand this time instead of Louis. Catherine chose to attack Darius this time after her inconclusive initial war with Roosevelt, unlike the actual Game Four where she repeatedly attacked the Americans and ended up with little to show for it. Justinian stayed at peace for a few dozen turns, then went after Roosevelt at a much earlier date than in the actual Game Four. Roosevelt fared no better in this alternate universe, as he was grinded down city by city and eliminated on Turn 198. Catherine was slowly doing the same thing to Darius, albeit over a longer time span, and she removed him from the game some 50 turns later:
This left the game with two major powers in Justinian and Catherine, although Justinian was very far ahead of Cathy and certain to win any confrontation between the two. Saladin was slowly winning his struggle with Louis and gobbling up France one city at a time, only to be interrupted when Cathy declared war on Arabia on Turn 270. This new war was immediately turned on its head when Justinian intervened on Saladin's side two turns later. Justinian had massive armies of tanks backed by infantry and factories, whereas Cathy (and everyone else) still relied on rifles and cavs. The conflict turned into a complete bloodbath, with Catherine losing more than a city per turn and suffering elimination 15 turns later. Seriously, look at her size on the minimap above - that was all taken away in just over a dozen turns. Justinian wasn't kidding around here. Louis was down to only four cities left and would have been eliminated by Saladin in a dozen or so more turns, but he was saved by Justinian's captured Russian cities coming out of revolt and putting the Byzantine leader over the Domination limit:
Justinian once again finished in first place, Saladin came in second, and Louis limped his way into the Wildcard game.
This game went off in a different direction from the very start when Montezuma founded one of the initial two religions instead of getting locked out as had happened in the actual Game Four. Monty and Justinian split the first two religions (with their Holy Cities located right next to one another) and then Saladin founded the third religion at Monotheism a little later. This meant that Catherine did not found her own religion and she ended up adopting Justinian's Christianity, paving the way for the two of them to work together in this game as they had never been able to do in the actual Game Four. From there, the dominoes began to fall in mostly predictable fashion. I thought that Justinian and Montezuma would go to war against one another, however that failed to materialize as Roosevelt launched a shocking cross-map war against Monty. That led to a bizarre situation where each of them captured a city from the other despite the huge distances. More importantly, Catherine launched her initial war against Darius in this game and Justinian joined her a little bit later. The two of them were further joined by Saladin, and the trio of leaders carved up Darius until he was the First to Die on Turn 144:
Meanwhile, Louis had decided to attack Montezuma in this game instead of Saladin, perhaps because Monty had his own religion this time around. The France/America pairing slowly conquered Montezuma once city at a time, until the Aztecs made their exit on Turn 162. Amazingly, Justinian and Montezuma never went to war in this world, even with their two Holy Cities all of three tiles apart. Justinian stayed at peace for an extended time, using his huge size to research faster than anyone else and accumulate a gigantic tech lead. Just by looking at the above picture, it should be clear who would be the next one to depart the game. Saladin's Islamic religion made him an outsider, and he found himself in essentially the same spot that Catherine did in the actual Game Four. Founding the third religion turned out to be an unwanted diplomatic poison pill. Catherine attacked him on Turn 189, and both Roosevelt and Louis joined in over the next dozen turns. This time it was Louis who picked up the finishing blow:
Everyone in the game had a shared religion at this point, and all relations were either "Pleased" or "Friendly" due to faith and mutual military struggle bonuses. However, a few turns later Justinian voted through a Free Religion civics resolution in the United Nations, and that knocked a bunch of the relationships back down to "Cautious" again. Catherine eventually decided to attack Louis, but that was overshadowed by Justinian finally returning to war once again. He was more than a full era ahead in technology, and when he decided to invade Roosevelt, the results weren't pretty. Four American cities fell on the first turn of the attack as all of the conquests in ex-Arabia were taken at once. Justinian's tanks shredded through the American rifle defenders from there, and the entire war took all of a half dozen turns to complete, with Roosevelt exiting the game on Turn 268. At this point it was obvious that Justinian was going to win by some victory condition, with him enormously far ahead in tech, nearing the Domination limit, and far more culture than anyone else. He ended up with two Legendary cities and came three votes short of a Diplomatic victory (555 out of 558 votes) when Louis voted for him at one point. Catherine slowly grinded away at the large French empire, and the main drama in the final turns was whether she could finish off Louis before the Byzantine spaceship arrived in Alpha Centauri. As it turned, she fell short by one or two turns:
Louis would have made it to the Wildcard game by virtue of a single surviving city. Justinian again took first place, with Catherine finishing in second place this time.
In this game, Montezuma decided to go for an early Bronze Working tech, and the early religions were split between Justinian and Catherine. Saladin claimed the third religion at Monotheism, ending up with the same religious distribution as in the actual Game Three (Justinian = Christianity, Catherine = Judaism, Saladin = Islam). This time the settling patterns worked out a bit differently, with Montezuma cutting Justinian off to the south and limiting the Byzantines to slightly less land than they picked up in other games. Because Montezuma claimed more land to the west, this also caused Louis to gain a bit more territory in the east. Things kicked off with an extremely early Saladin attack against Darius on Turn 56, something that never occurred in any of the other test games to date. That didn't lead to any serious consequences aside from setting back Darius a bit. Montezuma then launched an attack against Justinian, with Roosevelt joining the Aztecs ten turns later. This put Justinian in a difficult 1 vs 2 situation, and he would actually lose a city to Monty before peace was signed. Justinian was not running away with the game this time as he had done in prior matches. Catherine then joined Justinian in the war against Roosevelt, but neither of them had catapults yet and American city walls stalled out their respective offensives. After 125 turns and a half dozen wars, no one was close to being eliminated.
Montezuma had fought another inconclusive war with Saladin, then returned to attack Justinian a second time. This war didn't go as well, with Justinian reclaiming his earlier lost city before signing peace again. Still, Justinian had been slowed significantly by all this fighting, and Louis actually took over the score lead at one point. Montezuma was soon off fighting more wars with Saladin that failed to lead anywhere; I think Monty launched five different wars in the first 150 turns. Absolute insanity on his part in this game. Catherine eventually returned to war with Roosevelt again, and Justinian decided to get his revenge by joining the party soon thereafter. Up against two of the strongest powers in the game, Roosevelt collapsed and suffered the first elimination of the game:
It took him a very long time to die though, more than 200 turns in all. This was one game where Justinian put his cataphracts to great use, as they were the decisive factor in taking most of the American cities. Catherine had joined the war before Justinian, and yet the Byzantines claimed all but a single city, largely due to having a much stronger attacker to punch through the longbows and maces on defense. With all of the American territory and a good chunk of Aztec territory, Justinian now once again became the dominant AI leader after a shaky start to this match.
In the south, Darius had been getting chipped away over a series of small wars with Saladin and Louis. These conflicts never took more than a city or two away from him, but he had been losing territory steadily over time. Louis renewed this sequence again on Turn 213, and after he managed to take two Persian cities, Catherine and Saladin joined into the fun themselves. The feeding frenzy was on in full, with Russia claiming the last two cities and the killing blow on Darius:
With Darius out of the game, the world was left with a situation where Justinian was far ahead of the field, and then Louis/Catherine/Saladin were all reasonably close to one another. Louis had a solid grip on second place, as he had mostly stayed out of conflicts and was competing with Justinian for the tech leadership. In the long run he was almost certain to be eclipsed by the Byzantines, but in the near term Louis was able to land several key wonders like the Statue of Liberty and the Pentagon. Louis likely could have coasted from this point into the runner up spot, right up until he made a fatal mistake: he declared war on Justinian. That was stupid enough on its own merits, however Justinian had also signed a Defensive Pact with Catherine, and therefore Louis brought both of his biggest competitors into a war against him all at once. This was one of the worst mistakes I can recall in AI Survivor history, right up there with Shaka's self-combustion in this season's playoff round.
From there, the results were predictable. Justinian and Catherine carved up the large French empire city by city over the next 30 turns, with Justinian's tanks ensuring that he claimed nearly all of the spoils. Catherine only managed to pick up three cities in total, and that was a problem because Saladin's borders expanded to fill in the gaps left by the departing French culture. If Cathy had taken another city or two, she would have been more sheltered from the effects of Arabian culture, not to mention picking up more score points from having more captured population. The two of them were left neck and neck on score points for the second place spot, less than 100 points apart most of the time. There was a chance to break this competition wide open when Saladin went to war with Montezuma, only for the two of them to sign peace after five turns with only a couple of cities changing hands. Saladin could have easily conquered all of the Aztec territory, so I'm not sure why that happened. It wasn't a UN peacekeeping resolution. (Somehow Montezuma survived to the end of this game despite everyone else being "Annoyed" with him, which was nothing less than a miracle.) It was a photo finish when Justinian's spaceship landed on Turn 328:
Saladin by a whisker. To give you an idea of how close this was, Catherine was in the lead during the final interturn and Saladin leapfrogged her at the last second by finishing a tech on the final turn. If that tech had taken one more turn to complete, he would have finished below Cathy's score. Wow, what an awesome finish! Given all the people who picked Catherine in this game, that would have sent howls of frustration across the Livestream if this had been the version that was played out. Overall then, we once again had Justinian in first, Saladin in second by a nose, and Catherine/Montezuma going to the Wildcard game. A clear pattern was starting to emerge here: don't bet against Justinian on this particular map.
This test version was played out on Livestream, with a smaller group of viewers watching the turns pass at a much faster pace. We ran through this game in about a quarter of the usual time, 45 minutes instead of the normal three hours. This game had a completely different religious opening from any of the previous versions. Justinian grabbed Christianity first as usual, followed by Montezuma taking the Polytheism religion and establishing Taoism. After that no one made a determined push for the Monotheism religion, and it was eventually founded by Justinian. He buried this minority religion and took out almost all of the others, leaving the game divided into two competing camps of Christians and Taoists. Justinian's religious allies included Catherine and Roosevelt, while Monty had a southern alliance of sorts going on with Louis and Saladin. Darius was the only one to fall outside these two religious alliances, as he switched to one of Justinian's minority religions and then self-founded Islam via Code of Laws. This made him the enemy of everyone else, and that high peace weight certainly wasn't helping. While Montezuma and Justinian fought an inconclusive early war, Saladin declared war on Darius, followed by Louis, then Monty (after his war with Justinian finished), and then Catherine. The Persians were torn apart by all of these invaders and made a very quick exit from the game:
Cathy claimed the killing blow but the big winner from Darius' demise was Saladin. Arabia claimed the most cities in the shared war and Saladin's culture was powerful enough to swallow up most of the conquests taken by other leaders. This would propel Saladin up next to Justinian at the top of the scoreboard. Meanwhile Justinian was having his own problems, problems that came in the form of his Aztec neighbor. Monty had also benefitted from the downfall of his Persian neighbor as well, and he ended up with more land in this alternate reality than he did in any of the other versions of Game Four. He chose to use these additional cities by throwing himself against Justinian again and again in a series of wars that slowed down the progress of the Byzantines. Instead of collapsing to Justinian as we had seen in other alternate histories, this time Monty was able to hold his own. In fact, he actually managed to get Justinian to cede cities to him in the peace treaties, first a border city named Nicaea, then another border city further to the northeast named Nicomedia. Were we actually going to see Montezuma emerge as one of the leaders of this game?!
In typical Aztec fashion, Montezuma had also gone to war with Roosevelt when he wasn't fighting with Justinian, and although that allowed him to snipe a single American border city, it also drove Roosevelt firmly into a partnership with Justinian. The two of them had a shared Christian religion and they were "Friendly" with one another. There were multiple situations where Montezuma found himself in a 1 vs 2 situation against both the Americans and the Byzantines, which kept the situation in the north in a state of relative parity. At the high point of Montezuma's fortunes, he actually managed to capture Justinian's capital and then keep it in the subsequent peace treaty:
Elsewhere, Catherine and Saladin had fought with one another twice, with Saladin coming out slightly better in each engagement. Saladin was the clear game leader, ahead in territory, population, and in research. He might have been able to run away with this game if Louis hadn't gone to Free Religion and decided to attack Saladin from the east, putting him into a two front war that eventually led to more peace treaties all around. The period from Turn 125 to Turn 250 was surprisingly balanced in this world, with lots of fighting everywhere but no one able to make decisive advances. We went through more than a hundred turns with no signficant changes in the geopolitical situation.
Ultimately Montezuma simply made too many enemies. Justinian and Roosevelt had been pressing on him for some time, and Louis decided to attack as well on Turn 266. That sealed the fate of the Aztecs, who had not surprisingly fallen behind in technology by now. Monty was carved up from three sides and eliminated by Justinian on Turn 291. The Byzantines claimed about half the spoils here, with the other half mostly going to Saladin due to his culture. Arabia simply swallowed up all of the southern Aztec domains without even needing to fight. At the same time that this was going on, Catherine decided that she wanted to claim Roosevelt's scalp and launched her own invasion. This was a perfectly timed war with Russia just having picked up tanks, and Roosevelt stood no chance at defense. The fact that the two of them were both Christian allies apparently didn't matter at all to Cathy. Her own conquest completed on Turn 298:
The game was closely balanced now between Saladin, Catherine, and Justinian. Saladin had a small but clear lead of about four or five techs in the space race, and it seemed likely that he would win the game if no one intervened to disrupt him in some way. This game wasn't fated to remain peaceful, however, as Catherine launched an invasion of Saladin on Turn 314. She was fighting with tanks against Saladin's mechanized infantry, and despite a lot of slaughter on either side, there was little in the way of territory changing hands. Louis decided to attack Saladin as well a dozen turns later, only to see Cathy sell him out almost immediately by signing a separate peace with Arabia. Now Louis was the punching bag facing the top leader on the scoreboard, and he slowly began to lose cities, especially once Saladin reached modern armor. Cathy returned to war on Turn 355 and started pounding Saladin with her own modern armor and a volley of nukes. She captured Persepolis and Medina, and looked like she might have eliminated the exhausted Saladin from the game if she had been given two dozen more turns. However it was already too late, as Saladin had launched his spaceship on Turn 348 and won the game when it arrived ten turns later:
This was the rare game where the score leader was not the victorious leader. Saladin would have taken first place in this alternate history, with Catherine finishing second and Justinian/Louis going on to the Wildcard game. This was another near-run affair, as Cathy would have reached the Arabian capital in about five more turns and could have destroyed the spaceship while it was still in transit to Alpha Centauri. This could have been the 1% of games where that 10 turn delay actually had an impact. This alternate history was the first time that Justinian hadn't been the winner, a sign of how much stronger the Aztecs had been in this game. It seems like the better Justinian did on this map, the worse that Montezuma did, and vice versa. This was also an extraordinarily bloody game, with 23 war declarations in total before it ran its conclusion. That may be the most we've ever had for a non-Wildcard game and it's remarkable that four leaders ended up surviving. Kudos to Saladin for taking this match despite a lack of allies and repeated attacks from other leaders over the last fifty turns.
I had decided that I would do five of these tests, enough to get half a dozen data points when combined with the actual Game Four. On this occasion, Justinian and Montezuma again split the initial religions, with Justinian taking his familiar Christanity and Monty grabbing a random Confucianism. I suspected that Saladin would be the one to claim the third religion, however he was slow to the punch and Justinian ended up reaching Monotheism first and established Buddhism as a minority religion. Buddhism would end up spreading fairly well in this game, and none of the later religions would ever see much use. There was an extremely early war declaration in this game, with Montezuma attacking Justinian on Turn 46 while much of the map still remained open. This didn't seem to slow down Justinian in the least; he fended off Montezuma without any noticeable effort while also capturing a key barbarian city in the center of the map. The two of them eventually signed peace without any cities changing hands.
Elsewhere, Roosevelt was the next leader to kick off the action by invading Catherine. This was certainly different from many of the other alternate history games, where Cathy was almost always the aggressor in that relationship. In a surprising twist the American were able to capture the Russian border city of Rostov. Catherine would eventually get it back after much hard fighting, and the two of them signed peace with no cities permanently changing hands. In the east, Montezuma declared war on Darius and managed to capture a border city from Persia, and then Louis repeated the same process by attacking and taking a city off of Saladin. While everyone else was fighting to little noticeable effect, Justinian was sitting back and teching away into a huge lead. He raced out in front by more than 250 points over the next closest leader, and began building pretty much every single wonder in the game. Apostolic Palace, Statue of Zeus, Mausoleum, Sistine Chapel, Great Library - he built absolutely everything. The Byzantine leader then picked the perfect moment to strike, hitting Montezuma when the Aztecs were exhausted from endless warfare. With catapults in hand to remove city defenses and Montezuma detested by the rest of the world, there was nothing stopping Justinian. He rolled up the Aztecs over the course of three dozen turns of war and eliminated them from the game:
Justinian was now fully 50% higher in score than anyone else in the game. He had become the unstoppable Runaway AI and it looked as though everyone else was playing for second place. While the Aztecs were being eviscerated, Darius of Persia had been taking a pretty serious beating as well. Catherine had attacked from one side while Saladin invaded from the other end, and Darius was hard pressed to hold them off at the frontier. An Apostolic Palace "stop the war" resolution was likely the only thing that forced peace and prevented him from suffering an early elimination. Roosevelt was another AI leader who was struggling, as he had once again failed to secure enough land to be competitive. Either the bad luck of this map draw or his weak AI personality kept leaving him in a poor position in all of these alternate history games. Catherine eventually decided to get revenge by attacking him on Turn 160, and then she bought Justinian into the war as an ally a few turns later. Roosevelt frantically managed to get a peace treaty with Justinian almost immediately, but not until after Justinian had captured two American cities with his cataphracts. This peace treaty was for naught though, as Roosevelt (who was foolishly practicing Buddhism in a heavily Christian world) saw the Apostolic Palace leveraged against him. Catherine was joined in her war by Saladin, Darius, Louis, and Justinian (again). This 5 vs 1 scenario meant a swift and extremely painful death for poor Roosevelt:
Justinian again claimed the killing blow, sniping the last city away from Catherine. Despite spending minimal time engaged in combat, Justinian had secured about half of the spoils from Roosevelt's defeat. He was absurdly far ahead of the rest of the pack at this point. I mean, this was the GNP bar graph following America's defeat:
Holy cow. Can you guess who was going to win?
The race for second was still on though, and Catherine and Louis were in a tight competition for the runner up spot. After some 30 turns of peace, Darius foolishly decided to pick a war with Catherine on Turn 228. Although that would have been a bad choice regardless, it was made even worse by the fact that Cathy had a defensive pact together with Saladin, which brought the Arabians into the war as well. The two of them began carving up the outer edges of Persia, although it was a slow process because Darius was ahead in technology. His Financial trait had led him to discover Rifling tech before either of the two attackers. It all became irrelevant a short time later though, as Justinian and Louis both decided to attack Darius as well on the same turn. I don't think it was an Apostolic Palace resolution since I had seen both leaders moving forces into position on the previous turns, plus Justinian had already gone into Free Religion earlier. I think it was simply a case of the sharks circling around the weakest fish in the ocean, and everyone wanting to take part in the feeding frenzy. Darius lost his entire empire in the span of seven turns, with Louis randomly getting the elimination credit this time:
Catherine and Louis were only separated by 6 points at the time of that screenshot, and it was unclear to me which one would be higher in score when all the captured cities came out of resistance. Justinian was completely and totally unleashed at this point, effectively doubling the score of the second place leader and walking uncontested to whatever victory condition he wanted. As it turned out, that was the Cultural victory condition. Note the 29 turns of research time on Refrigeration tech: he had turned off science and gone over to 100% culture on the slider. That was going to deliver a very early victory date to Byzantium and there was little anyone else could do to stop it. Justinian's swelling borders soon began playing havoc with the race for second place. Byzantine culture was dominant everywhere, and in the ex-American and ex-Persian lands where the other civs hadn't had time to build up much culture, his cities began engulfing everyone else within their borders. Both Catherine and Louis were losing tiles left and right to the swelling Byzantine borders as they continued to trade positions on the scoreboard. Who was going to secure that second place spot?
Things became more interesting when Louis declared war on Saladin on Turn 266. That was one of the very few conflicts that were possible on this map; everyone had been Christian friends and mutual military struggle allies against both America and Persia, which had lots of "Pleased" and "Friendly" faces on the diplomatic screen. I suspect that's the only reason why Justinian didn't win via Domination, as he was over 50% in land area and could have taken out anyone else on the map with a good sneeze. Louis had the potential to secure second place with a successful war against Saladin, and he did manage to capture several Arabian cities around the edges of Saladin's empire. However, most of those city captures were immediately swallowed up by Justinian's culture and were worth almost nothing in terms of score points. Catherine was able to surge ahead of Louis in research as a result of staying at peace, and she slowly pulled a clear 100 points ahead. If there had been more time in this game, Louis would have been able to push deep enough into Arabian territory to capture cities that weren't on the Byzantine border, and I think he would have taken over the score lead eventually. But time ran out on Turn 285 with the core of Arabia still intact, and that gave Russia enough of an edge to hold on:
That was an extremely fast and extremely dominant game from Justinian. If he had stayed on the spaceship track, he likely could have finished the tech tree before Turn 300. One Justinian took out Montezuma while everyone else remained stalled in place with unproductive wars, the game had effectively been over. Look at how badly Catherine had been squeezed in the former American lands; she had lost nearly all of the territory that she captured earlier due to Byzantine cultural pressure. Impressive stuff.
I think there were several interesting conclusions to draw from this exercise. The first lesson was that Justinian was the dominant leader in game after game, and it wasn't particularly close in most of them. He won five of the six games outright and only narrowly lost in the Test Game 4, which appears to have been an outlier result. For picking contest purposes, Justinian was clearly the "correct" answer as far as who was most likely to win on this map. He's a great leader for AI Survivor purposes and his starting position (with double food resources, iron, and double gold) was amazing. As a related point, Justinian's success was also tied to the terrible AI personality of Montezuma. In game after game, Justinian feasted on the overaggressive tendencies of Monty next door. In the only game that Justinian didn't win, Montezuma managed to drag down the Byzantines and even captured Justinain's capital at one point. While Justinian still emerged on top from that struggle in the end, it seems clear that his fate was inversely tied to that of the Aztec leader. The worse that the Aztecs performed, the better it was for the Byzantines. Montezuma himself was again confirmed as a horrible AI leader, eliminated in four of the six games and sitting in the last place position in the two games where he did survive. Monty never so much as sniffed the top of the leaderboard and was never in a position to contend for a victory. He's just bad at this competition.
Joining him at the bottom of the pile were Darius and Roosevelt. The two of them were eliminated in all six games, never surviving, never being in any position to take a top spot. While Roosevelt had a subpar starting location, there was no excuse for Darius to perform so poorly. He was First to Die in three of the six games despite being the #3 favorite to win outright from the community before the game began. Darius sure fooled a lot of you guys! He seems to do consistently worse than his awesome traits would suggest. We also thought that Catherine would do better in the alternate games than she did in the actual Game Four, and that was confirmed as well. She finished in second place three times (including once when she had the score lead) and narrowly missed a fourth runner up finish by an eyelash to Saladin. Cathy might not have been able to compete with Justinian on this particular map, but she's a strong AI leader and ended up getting unlucky in the actual Game Four. Her self-founded religion literally got her killed in that game, something that, as expected, didn't happen in the other games. Louis and Saladin were pretty much in between those extremes in terms of performance, sometimes doing well and even managing an unlikely Saladin spaceship win in Test 4, sometimes getting rolled up and crushed by their neighbors. It feels like this matches their current ranking in AI Survivor, which places both of them somewhere in the middle of the field, not among the best leaders and not among the worst leaders.
Replaying the same map multiple times also served to confirm that these games are not completely random in terms of what happens. There were certain patterns that played out again and again, and Justinian's continued dominance indicated that his victory in Game Four was no accident. That's not to say that there's no luck element in these games, because there most certainly are strange things that take place against the run of play. Catherine's self-destructive religion was an outlier result in the actual Game Four that destroyed her run in this year's tournament. Montezuma's surprisingly successful warring in Test 4 was another outlier result that left Saladin winning an unusual Spaceship victory that was never repeated in any other tests. But Darius and Roosevelt were eliminated in every single game, and Montezuma was never able to climb out of last place even on the few occasions when he survived. It isn't luck when the same leaders are eliminated six games in a row, and the same leader wins five out of the six games. It is possible to make informed predictions about these games that are correct more often than not.
I'd like to do this same exercise with maybe one or two more games to see what happens. Game One in particular felt like an outlier result when we played it live, and I suspect it would go down very differently on multiple playthroughs. Game Six would also be fun to see replayed because the field was so amazingly strong in terms of the leaders drawn into it. Hopefully I'll have enough time to investigate some of them in more detail later. Until then, thanks again for reading.