Civ4 AI Survivor Season 4: Playoff Game Two Preview

This is a continuing feature for Season Four of Civ4 AI Survivor: a preview of each game before it begins, providing a quick summary of the leaders involved and how the community expects the game to shake out.

The second game of Season Four gathered together a bunch of low peaceweight warmongers plus one glaring exception. Among the leaders who had been victorious in the opening round was Stalin, the defending AI Survivor champion from Season Three. He had crushed his way through his initial game and looked ready to return back to the championship game again. Joining him was the suprising figure of Tokugawa, who had emerged on top of a rather weak field of competitors in his own opening match. The runner up leaders generally looked pretty similar to one another, with Shaka and Gilgamesh and Mao Zedong all bringing different forms of aggression to the table. Mao was the best economic leader out of that bunch, having taken the more difficult path into the playoffs via the Wildcard round. And then finally there was Gandhi, a winner of his opening round game who appeared horribly out of place in this match. This did not look like the place for a dedicated pacifist.

Opening Round Winners

Gandhi of India
Traits: Philosophical, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 10
Past Finishes: 3 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Seasons Two and Three and Four
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 17 points, tied 9th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Gandhi is arguably the most unique leader in the entire game, and his AI personality differs in several respects from everyone else. Gandhi has Philosophical and Spiritual traits, a decent second-tier pairing with a pretty good economic boost. He gets the Indian civilization, with the single best unique unit in the entire game in the Fast Worker, although the AI doesn't know how to use them properly. India's unique building is the Mausoleum, a jail replacement which is rather good itself. Gandhi the AI plays the game as a hyper-pacifist, as befitting his historical personality. Gandhi is the AI leader least likely to declare war in the whole game, with a normalized aggression rating of zero out of ten. He's the benchmark upon which all other peacenicks are judged. Gandhi only has one flavor for his research: CULTURE. He can often ignore military techs to an alarming degree. Gandhi's other ratings are a similar story in contrasts. He places no emphasis upon building units (0/10 rating), or espionage spending (0/10), or demanding tribute (0/10). He will ask for help (8/10) and demand civic changes (10/10) at a high rate, but even in those cases, Gandhi has a unique diplomatic mechanic where refusing his demands does not lower his opinion of you. However, Gandhi also has a unique mechanic whereby he places a -2 diplo penalty on anyone who declares war against someone he regards with "Pleased" or "Friendly" ratings. He has the highest peace weight in the entire game, a perfect 10/10, indicating quasi-divine morality. No one else has the same peace weight in the whole game. Overall, Gandhi is about as extreme as it's possible to get on the pacifist scale. He's extremely good at pursuing Cultural victory... but he has to survive to get to that point, and that's quite often his problem.

Tokugawa of Japan
Traits: Aggressive, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 First Place, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Seasons Two and Four
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 11 points, 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Next we have Tokugawa of Japan, with the horribly non-economic trait pairing of Aggressive and Protective. These are excellent combat traits, of course, but there's a reason why humans stay away from these ones. Japan also gets access to the Samurai and Shale Plants, which are fairly weak unique items. Tokugawa is infamous in the Civ4 community for having the "loser" profile, the isolationist leader who refuses to work with anyone and eventually gets out-teched and dogpiled. Turning off tech trading should actually help poor Tokugawa, who inevitably gets left out of the loop when tech trading is on. He's yet another leader with a high aggression rating (7.3 out of 10, and trust me, they aren't normally this high!) and Tokugawa is almost pathologically unable to get along with his neighbors. It would be a true shock to see him do well. His second place finish in the Opening Round of Season Two was one of the strangest results we've ever seen in almost three dozen AI Survivor games.

Stalin of Russia
Traits: Aggressive, Industrious
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season Three Champion
Total Kills: 10
Overall Power Ranking: 32 points, 3rd place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Stalin's traits are Aggressive and Industrious, a bit of an odd pairing without too much in the way of obvious synergy. Stalin also employs the same Russian unique stuff as Catherine, with the Cossack and the Research Institute. As an AI, Stalin predictably has military and production flavors. He is unsurprisingly rated as a rather aggressive leader (7.6 out of 10) and as an "Evil" leader according to peace weight. Interestingly, Stalin AI doesn't care much about religion at all, as befitting a good Communist. He gets few benefits from shared faith and little in the way of penalty from differing religions. Otherwise, Stalin's numbers are pretty average across the board, except for his massive love of espionage spending (10/10!) It's a fairly well constructed AI personality based on the historical persona. In a game where so many other AI leaders will be battling over religion, Stalin will opt out of the race altogether and do his own thing.

Season Four Addition: Stalin didn't accomplish much of anything in the first two seasons of AI Survivor, and it was a surprise when he took over and started dominating the competition in Season Three. Stalin was the outright winner of all three of his matches, piling up an impressive body count with seven kills to take home the Golden Spear award. Stalin's traits of Aggressive/Industrious don't appear to be especially great for these matches, but the Russian leader has been able to find the right moments to snowball ahead in his previous games. His dominated his opening round game yet again in Season Four and by now there's little doubt that Stalin is for real.

Opening Round Runner-Ups

Shaka of the Zulus
Traits: Aggressive, Expansive
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Seasons Two and Three and Four
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 13 points, tied 15th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Shaka's in this game too, and he's probably the most effective of the insane warmongers since he has managed to reach the playoffs in three different seasons. Shaka has Aggressive and Expansive traits, a pairing that's caused him to see occasional use in some of our Pitboss games. Shaka's Zulu civ is often seen as one of the best in the game, packaging the fast-moving Impi along with the Ikhanda for a unique building. It's a shame that the AI doesn't know how to use these effectively, as Shaka was a universal ban on the Multiplayer ladder back in the days of the Warlords expansion. Shaka AI looks much like Temujin AI and Montezuma AI, with only a single flavor: MILITARY. He has a rating of 10/10 for unit emphasis, and an aggression rating of 9.2 out of 10, good enough for fourth place in the entire game. Like Temujin and Montezuma, he also has Police State as his favorite civic. If any of these leaders build or capture the Pyramids, they'll choose that civic for the rest of the game. Shaka's only real difference is that he doesn't make much in the way of demands. These guys are all totally nuts, and should be a sight to watch. Shaka's opening round victory in Season Two of AI Survivor remains one of the most shocking results we've ever seen in this competition.

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Traits: Creative, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Season Four
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, tied 31st place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: We rarely see Gilgamesh in our Multiplayer events, although his Sumerian civ is one of the most popular choices. Gilgamesh himself is Creative and Protective, that second trait being the main reason why he's persona non grata. (Protective is hands down the worst trait in Civ4.) His Sumerian civilization has the underwhelming Vulture as a unique unit, and the very nice Ziggurat as a unique building. Sumeria also has the nice benefit of starting with Agriculture and Wheel techs, which could be a factor now that we've removed the free Deity starting techs. Gilgamesh AI is another highly aggressive leader. He has military and culture flavors, and stands out a bit in this group of leaders for having a major preference for wonders (8/10 rating). That said, Gilgamesh AI still prioritizes units and has an aggression rating of 8/10. He's listed as the eighth most violent leader overall out of the full 52 leaders. He has low peace weight rating and will not like his northern neighbor at all. In past seasons, Gilgamesh has been a total flop of a leader and achieved absolutely nothing, getting eliminated in all three appearances. He managed to reach the playoffs for the first time in Season Four with by far his best showing to date.

Mao Zedong of China
Traits: Expansive, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Mining
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 3 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Two
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 18 points, 8th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Mao is one of the best leaders in the game to be saddled with the Protective trait. He pairs it alongside Expansive, so at least Mao gets one excellent trait to play around with. His Chinese civilization has the Cho-Ko-Nu unique unit and the Pavilion unique building. The AI probably doesn't build enough crossbows to make this too useful, although they will get the free Protective promotions if they show up. As an AI, Mao has the unusual distinction of being the leader who cares the least about religion in the whole game. He attaches almost no benefit or malus to shared/separate religion, and Mao has a rating of 0/10 for "Demand You Convert to His Religion." He simply doesn't care. Mao has growth and production research flavors, a very unusual combination. I'm curious to see what kind of route through the tech tree that produces. Mao AI doesn't focus too much on wonders either (2/10), but he does have a soft spot for espionage (8/10). He is slightly below average in aggression rating (5.7 out of 10), and Mao is considered to be an "Evil" leader by peace weight. It's actually a very low number, only one tick above Montezuma (and De Gaulle, heh) for the lowest spot possible. Someone at Firaxis was not a fan of the Cultural Revolution, and probably with good reason. In any case, Mao is made rather unique by his disdain for religion, his unusual research flavors, and his extremely low peace weight.

Season Four Addition: Whether due to a better than expected AI personality or an excellent series of lucky games, Mao absoutely tore up the competition over first past two years. He's finished in first place (1 out of 7), third place (3/6), second place (2/6), and second place (2/6) before finally being eliminated in the Season Two Championship. He also made it back to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons via the Wildcard game. Despite an early elimination in Season Three, it's fair to say that Mao has punched above his weight in the competition to date.

Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:

The community had clear picks in each category for the second playoff game. Stalin emerged as the strong favorite to be the outright winner with more than half of the contest entries choosing him. No one else could muster much above ten percent. Mao Zedong was almost as popular of a pick for the second place spot, and there were lots and lots of individuals who had a communist Stalin/Mao pairing for their submission. Gandhi was a very obvious pick as First to Die on this map, and yet if anything the 80% of the entries choosing Gandhi for this category were lower than I'd been expecting. I legitimately thought we might crack 90% in this category but apparently at least some of the field doesn't believe that peace weight is destiny. Domination also emerged as the most popular victory type yet again, perhaps because so many of these leaders could plot war at "Pleased" relations. This didn't feel like a game that was heading for a cultural finish.

Finally, here are some of the best/craziest written predictions about what would take place during the game. There were many other excellent entries but I had to pick and choose my favorites to keep this from running on too long. Thanks again for the submissions!

ljubljana: pfahahha god stalin's start is appalling. and you know his first two plants are going to be double food bonuses in the tundra and the single food bonus at the world's worst fishing village to his east. man are these other scrubs about to get embarrassed

JackDRB: Even though this game is full to the brim with very aggressive AIs, I'd say this is the perfect game draw for a diplomatic win. Look at the peaceweights: expect for Gandhi, they are all 1's and 2's. I have a feeling that, although Gandhi is sure to die, that he'll survive long enough (mainly due to attacking AI incompetence rather than Gandhi actually playing well) to be the unifying punching bag where all the other AIs can orchestrate a big whole lovefest with mutual military struggle and the like. When Gandhi dies, there isn't a whole lot that can really pull most of these AI's apart. The main divider is religion and the biggest possible malus between them is what, like -2? -3? No one really cares about differing religions that much, and apart from that, I don't really see how any of the non-Gandhi AIs can diplomatically isolate themselves from each other, unless one of them stupidly declares at Pleased relations or something (which may very well happen, I'm looking at you Shaka). How to pick a 1st/2nd linup when going with the rare Diplo victory? Not really sure, but I think Tokugawa has proven himself fairly capable in league with relatively weak competitors, and given he's been in the chance to win a Diplo victory before, so why not? For 2nd I think I just have to pick the generally strongest AI, and that would be Stalin, who I think is probably a little better than Mao (I also think his position is just generally better, and is very likely to gain some good cities from Gandhi). Go Toku!

NotSpamBot: I think Gandhi is the single most doomed participant we have ever had in AI Survivor.

Keler (artdeco): So I want Gilgamesh to win because he is the best AI here and Mao Zedong to die because I love things as fair. I hope Tokugawa trolls Mao Zedong bullshit luckface. As for second place, Tokugawa won't be able to resist both attacks from north and south and die so builder Stalin has more chance to out tech Shaka dumbster garbage leader even though I am kind of annoyed by his luck as well.

haphazard1: Gandhi will be an irresistable target for his warmonger neighbors, and will die long before he has a chance to tech far enough ahead to defend himself. The copper at Stalin's start will prove crucial, giving him stronger units early and enabling him to declare on India very early. The additional territory starts Stalin growing towards an eventual domination win. Second place is tough to pick; I am going with Gilgamesh as India's early exit leaves him extra space to grow.

Takuan: Biggest gamble here. I'm rooting for Gandhi, Cultural victory. My hope is that his religion will spread and make people like him more. Stalin, Toku and Shaka will attack each other and that will not be conclusive, slowing them down while Gilgamesh and Mao sit and watch. Gilgamesh second is heartbreaking for me because i think he's a terrible AI, but he's got nice room to expand and i hope his economy will allow him to beat the rest of the field. For my prediction to come true, i need a low number of wars despite the aggressiveness of the competitors. GO GANDHI !!

Eauxps I. Fourgott: Ummmmmmmmm yeah Gandhi is super screwed here. His playoff curse continues. Among the others, the Shaka-Toku dream team has worked before, so let's go for them again!

TMIT: This game is Stalin's to lose. He's rolled a decent capital position with copper and is next to super high peace weight Gandhi. I'm anticipating an early war there and a victory for Russia. Mao gets 2nd by virtue of not being Gandhi or a game throwing warmonger. I always thought Gilgamesh was better, but he's let us down so many times. I doubt China sees much pressure so they're probably going to make it through this round. This is a much weaker field than playoff game 1.

Reverent: You know how in Looney Toons, a hungry Sylvester looks at Tweety, imagining him turning into this huge roasted turkey dinner? That's Gandhi's neighbors. Gandhi's a dead man walking. Disregarding his long shot, outside chance to survive the early game, the most likely outcome is that Gandhi gets into 3+ early wars and as his neighbors parcel him up. In this game, the biggest question is who benefits the most from this. They'll be the likely winner. My answer is a surprising Gilgamesh!

Gandhi's demise will likely benefit Gilgamesh more than anyone else. In a Gandhi flambé, Gilgamesh and Stalin are likely to take the most land. Disregarding the city captures for now, both of them will benefit significantly from the sudden disappearance of Indian culture from their border cities. In particular, Gilgamesh's creative borders will suddenly pull a ton of fertile grasslands into Sumeria. If he takes any of India's cities, Gilgamesh's creative culture will help him fight for control of what's liable to be a complete mishmash of competing borders. Beyond border control, the cultural pressure, combined with the peace weight differences, are likely to push Gilgamesh and Stalin into an earlier war with India than their neighbors. For Gilgamesh in particular, India's death will open up a lot of incredibly fertile grassland tiles. Stalin is more likely to end up with a wide expanse of open plains—still nice, but a far cry from the lucrative grasslands of southern India. As the last Indian factor benefiting Sumeria, I think Gandhi's probably going to settle his holy city to the south. Gandhi's early scouts are headed west and southwest. Given that the AI seems to prioritize settling unclaimed food resources first, I think Gandhi's scout's going to spot the corn to the south, then send the settler straight towards Gilgamesh. Given Gandhi's central position on a broad river network, combined with his conquerors' likely acquiring Gandhi's religion via city conquest, the holy city's shrine is primed to be ridiculously lucrative. If Gandhi settles his second city near Gilgamesh's border, then the Sumerian could come away from the dog pile with a highly valuable wonder.

Moving beyond India, Gilgamesh has a terrific start himself. Tons of food at his capital, several happiness resources in his area, plenty of floodplains in his area, lots of grassland tiles... He even has a terrific second city location that roughly fits the AI settling priorities! (Next to the corn, two above the gold.) Additionally, he has a huge buffer from Shaka. Gilgamesh has a lot of external factors in his favor to counteract his mediocre AI. I think he's going to establish an early research lead, then gradually snowball it into a winning position by the late-game. Compare that to Stalin's starting position. Stalin has a much narrower belt of grasslands to settle, with much of the belt bordered by tundra, deserts, and plains. Worse, the food resources are positioned in places which will tempt Stalin's settlers into building Siberian tundra cities. After his second city (which will probably bring the gold and corn online, given where he pointed his scouts), where does he go next? I think Stalin must gobble up at least India's capital to improve his lot. (Admittedly, Stalin's well-positioned for that, but Sumeria doesn't have the same do-or-die requirement that Russia does.) After Gilgamesh, I think Shaka's in a good position to take 2nd. He does best when he's in a field without someone who establishes a clear, early, dominant research edge. When he's near military tech parity, he tends to win his wars. This is an excellent field for him. Gandhi's likely to die early on and no one else is predisposed to build a substantial lead early on. After that, Tokugawa and Stalin are targets who will probably lose to Shaka's hordes. His biggest problem will be late-game. Shaka's suicidally aggressive.

ZeroScore: Gandhi teaches the world peace via the Apostolic Palace. Many wars, all fruitless as the world votes to stop the wars. Eventually, the world sees Gandhi as its savior and votes for him as supreme leader.

The__Babayaga: Of all the starts here, only Stalin seems to have drawn a decent one. Shaka has only 1 real food resource (plains hill sheep are pathetic), Toku has got 3 of arguably the worst resource to start with (silk...yuck), Gandhi's start is good but he'll last perhaps not into the ADs with this pack of warmongers, and the remaining 2 leaders are bound by tundra which means barring extreme luck they'll plonk their 2nd and 3rd settles right into the Antarctic wastes and then permanently cripple themselves. Also Stalin has a pretty dangerous and competent AI as seen by past seasons, and AGG and IND helps heavily to compensate for AI stupidity (namely, wonderbuilding when they shouldn't and spamming barracks instead of more useful things). All in all, Stalin seems like the clear winner, with Shaka doing his usual thing of rabidly attacking someone and then getting a lot of land before falling hopelessly behind in tech, nevertheless to still claim 2nd place. Gandhi is...yikes. Gonna be praying for that poor guy because he sure needs it.

Faded_Outline: It is entirely seemly for a young Gandhi killed in battle to lie mangled by the bronze spear. In his death all things appear fair.

Playoff Game Two Picking Contest Entry Form