Civ4 AI Survivor Season 4: Championship Game 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.

For the Championship Game of Season Four, I asked if anyone was willing to create a custom map and Commodore volunteered to put one together. Commodore created a far superior version of a mirrored map as compared to the Donut one that I had used for the first three seasons of AI Survivor. This was true mirrored map with exactly identical terrain for all six leaders, looking very similar to the setups that we use at Realms Beyond for our Multiplayer games. This was one game where there would be no excuses about some AI leaders rolling better land than others. The pictures of the individual capitals will therefore all look identical to one another; here's the image of the central jungle region since it falls outside the starting positions:

Note that the terrain is again mirrored here, with the Calendar-based happiness resources in the center of the map located at the same distance from each capital city. Commodore did not run any rivers through the center of the continent and it could be some time before the AI leaders manage to tame the wilderness in there. Expect the northern and southern sides of the map to remain divided from one another during the early turns of the game.

Playoff Round Winners

Willem of the Dutch
Traits: Financial, Creative
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Fishing
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Four
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 8 points, tied 24th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Willem has Creative and Financial traits, making him a near-universal ban for our Multiplayer events. He's held back somewhat by being paired with the Netherlands as a civ, who should have limited success on a Pangaea map. Their East Indiaman ship and Dike unique building are far stronger on water maps. Willem AI has gold and science flavors for his programming, and moderate emphasis on building units and wonders. In an interesting quirk, Willem cares almost nothing for religion at all, with a very small penalty for different faiths and equally small bonus for shared faith. He also has a strangely high aggression rating at 6.7 out of 10, which was not what I expected at all. So while Willem is programmed to emphasize gold and science, he's also programmed to declare war at a fairly high rate. Very unusual mix. He was one of the worst leaders in all of AI Survivor before putting together two strong games in Season Four to make the Championship game. Will his amazing traits finally lead Willem to the ultimate prize?

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Traits: Creative, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Four
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 11 points, tied 19th 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 western 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 and then win his playoff game, by far his best showing to date.

Charlemagne of the Holy Roman Empire
Traits: Imperialistic, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Hunting
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Four
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 12th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Charlemagne has one of the worst trait pairings in the game, combining Protective trait with Imperialistic trait. It's just as terrible as it sounds. His civilization is quite a bit better; as the only leader of the Holy Roman Empire, Charlemagne has access to the mediocre Landknecht and the amazing Rathaus unique building. That super courthouse is the main reason why the HRE civ ever gets played online, despite its atrocious starting techs (Mysticism and Hunting). Charlemagne the AI has military and religious flavors, and he can be quite the aggressor when provoked, with a rating of 7/10. Charlemagne quite commonly founds his own religion, and he feels very strongly about it, attaching a major penalty to the leaders who follow other faiths. His scores are otherwise average across the board, and Charlemagne can be an excellent ally if you share his faith. He's rated in the middle as a "Neutral" leader on peace weight. Charlemagne's fate in this game will likely be heavily tied to how the religious diplomacy shakes out. He "won" his playoff round game by virtue of an amazingly boneheaded decision on the part of Darius, and my sense remains that Charlemagne is a fairly mediocre leader who was in the right place at the right time this year.

Playoff Round Runner-Ups

Kublai Khan of the Mongols
Traits: Aggressive, Creative
Starting Techs: Hunting, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 2 First Place and 4 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Seasons Two and Three and Four
Total Kills: 9
Overall Power Ranking: 27 points, 6th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Kublai Khan is another aggressive ruler and someone predisposed to dislike the "Good" leaders. Kublai has Aggressive and Creative traits, a combination that often works well on cramped Pangaea maps. Like Genghis Khan Temujin, he has the Keshik unique unit and the Ger unique building, both of which are above average. Kublai has military and cultural flavors, and at first glance looks very similar to some of the more peaceful leaders in the game like Ramesses. He even has a fondness for wonders (6/10) and an aggression rating that's only a little bit higher (6.4 out of 10). The difference lies in Kublai's peace weight, which ranks him as an "Evil" leader at the other end of the spectrum from most of the game's peaceniks. This will cause major tensions between Kublai and high peace weight leaders like Darius, and make it very difficult for them to get along. So despite having a similar AI personality overall, Kublai may find himself on the other end of a war declaration from his neighbors with middling peace weights. Kublai reached the Championship in Seasons Two and Three and Four and has nearly collected ten kills thus far, marking him as another leader to watch. He often seems to fly under the radar despite three consecutive years in the Championship.

Stalin of Russia
Traits: Aggressive, Industrious
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 2
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Champion
Total Kills: 10
Overall Power Ranking: 34 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. He's back in the Championship for a second time to defend his crown from Season Three.

Darius of Persia
Traits: Financial, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Four
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, tied 18th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Darius has Financial and Organized traits, possibly the best pure economic traits in the game. This pairing is one of the most popular for our Multiplayer games, and is reigned in only by having no advantages in the early game. As a leader of the Persians, Darius brings the Immortal unique unit and the Apothecary unique building, neither one considered to be especially good. Then again, the immortal might actually be useful here given the number of archers that the AI likes to train. Darius the AI has gold and growth flavors for his research. He has a heavy wonder focus for a non-Industrious leader (8/10), along with an above average preference given to units. Darius AI is otherwise fairly average across the board, with an aggression rating in the middle of the scale (5.2 out of 10). He's considered to be a "Good" leader in peace weight. Darius is pretty easy to keep on good terms as a neighbor, and generally wants to be left alone to tech in peace. If he would manage to acquire a lot of land somehow, his traits make him a serious danger to run away with the game.

Season Four Addition: No leader let us down more times in the first three seasons of AI Survivor than Darius. Again and again he rolled a beautiful starting position only to fritter away his opening and achieve nothing of significance. Darius has probably been responsible for more busted picking contest entries than any other leader. Then he finally managed to put everything together by winning his opening round game in Season Four. Despite landing an absurdly good starting position in his playoff round game and leading in tech for the entirety of the match, Darius managed to throw away a certain win by pursuing a Cultural victory at the last minute. Will he sabotage himself yet again here in the Championship?

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

Unlike most of our previous games, the Championship field was evenly divided between different options in the picking contest. While this was assuredly due to the mirrored terrain on the custom map, it was still exciting to see such a wide open competition going into the last match. Willem, Kublai Khan, and Stalin all had roughly equivalent support to win the game, with Charlemagne dragging behind in last place. The runner up contest generally held the same pattern with slightly more support for Gilgamesh. First to Die had a clearer favorite in the form of Darius, the choice of about 40% of the contest entrants. These people were betting on the high peace weight of the Persian leader making him unpopular with his nearby neighbors. Finally, we had an even division between Spaceship and Domination as the victory conditions for the Championship, with a slight preference for the former. No one had chosen a Diplomatic victory at the time of writing even though the First to Die Fiesta had ended in that fashion earlier this week. Once again, the picking contest seemed to suggest that the game and the overall crown were open for the taking.

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!

Warclam: I think this is pretty clearly a game where Willem's financial nature and neutral peace weight will let him get ahead in tech and stay there, while Darius does stupid stuff and then dies. So if Willem goes to space (or culture), who's his running mate? Not Burger King, who's going to be fending off attacks from the warmongers. Kublai's sufficiently non-aggressive that he might be able to get strong while Joe and Gil slam their heads against BK's protective walls. On the other hand, either of them could take enough territory off Darius and Burger King to get out in front, leaving Kublai in third. It's a risk, but I have to believe Kublai has the heart of a champion. Third time to the championship, that has to mean something. So I say Clam King Willem goes to space, while Kublai becomes the War King and consolidates a strong medium-sized empire taken from his share of the Burger King and the Dumb King. Gil and Joe get to duke it out for the bronze.

Takuan: Kublia conquers Kublai, Stalin conquers Darius. Both of them snowball the game, but neither come out on top of the other - or they're friends and the game continues to space. In any case, i'm rooting for Kublai, since he deserves to win a championship game, given his record in past seasons especially compared to the other AIs in this game. Go Kublai !

LinkMarioSamus: First of all, Kublai Khan has the lowest unit emphasis rating of these leaders, and he has a fairly high wonder preference. Oh, and his nearest neighbor is Charlemagne, who has a diametrically opposed peace weight at 6 vs. Khan's 1, and who just beasted all over his playoff field. Oh, and Khan's the only leader here who hasn't outright won a game this season. Oh, and he was FTD in the previous two championship games. Oh, and he's in roughly the same position he was in those games. Uh oh. For the winner I'm picking Gilgamesh, since his AI ratings have the most potential of this bunch. He'll build a lot of wonders and he's also very willing to wage war on his rivals, without being too aggressive about it. For 2nd place I debated between Charlemagne and Willem, ultimately going with the former because he has tied Gilgamesh for the most points earned this season thus far at 11, he should be able to snowball off a conquest of Khan (also he's the only leader here who doesn't have a high wonder rating, so he won't waste time with them as much and will go straight for units like a good Templar Knight), and Willem might just sit in his corner and build until he gets double-teamed by Gilgamesh and Charlemagne. For a reflection on Gilgamesh, if you put a lot of stock into past results his potential zero to hero performance this season may look like a surprise, but it probably shouldn't. He had horrendous draws in Seasons 2 & 3, getting thrown into games with lots of high-peace weight leaders. At least he got his revenge on Mansa Musa and Gandhi this season! Also, we had only done three seasons, so it isn't all that illogical that a strong AI leader was hiding in plain sight due to consistent bad luck.

Commodore: There are two ways this game shakes out; either Willem or Darius reaches rifles, or neither makes it. I don't see Charlamagne giving up much early on, but his nasty neighborhood won't let him win, either. Kublai and Stalin might get gummed up in his Protective works, but I think Darius' low peace weight will tempt them more profitably north, abetted by sharing the Holy Roman religion. I can't wait to see how Mr. Disappointment of Persia messes up this call.

Eauxps I. Fourgott: Kublai Khan is a complete fraud, who gets by on lucky breaks time and time again to continue advancing and has deserved none of his championship appearances. I expect him to properly be first to die here yet again. In fact, almost everybody here has played poorly and/or had lucky breaks to get this far: Gilgamesh, Kublai, and (to a lesser extent) Charlemagne were lucky to advance past the opening round. Stalin was lucky to survive the playoff round and get chosen by Gilgamesh to advance over Shaka. Darius prospered from long years of peace and threw away a certain victory in the playoff round. Out of these six leaders, Willem has by far the most impressive resume this season, with a second place finish with the top score in the opening round, and a win while beating back a 2v1 war in the playoff round. He's needed the least lucky breaks of any of the leaders, and to make his situation even better he has a nice middling peace weight that will prevent any of the other leaders from instinctively hating him too much. This is Willem's game to lose. To round out my predictions, I'm picking Charlemagne to have yet another impressive game that still falls short of the win for second place, and a cultural victory as a realistic Willem choice that would continue the pattern for victory conditions in championship games.

Max: Stalin and Kublai team up to attack Darius and Charlie and eat them up. Gilgamesh declares a random war that goes nowhere. William quietly teches but doesn't get to Spaceship before Stalin gets Domination.

Zalson: Gilgamesh continues to demonstrate his excellent "settling" in a straight line technique, right into Darius, crushing his hopes just as Gilgamesh did in my deity play through. Stalin joins in, both of them divide Darius right up and then go on to stomp out Charlemagne and Willem. Or none of this happens, Willem expands his way to power and then fends of a 2v1. Or none of that happens and Stalin gets AP-cheesed to death by Charlemagne. Commodore, this is a beautiful map, BTW.

TMIT: There are a few properties that will make this game deviate from normal maps. First, there are a lot more plains around starting positions than typical. This will cut into cottage setups. Second, distances between AIs are longer than usual, so we're less likely to see early aggression with delayed islandtarget checks (and less likely to see it be effective, should someone go for it anyway). Third, wonders are disproportionately strong on maps like this. As a result, I somewhat favor Stalin here, with a tough choice after him between Gilgamesh and Kublai. I give Kublai an edge due to his location + possibility to conquer Willem, who I have pegged as first to die. For obvious reasons, I don't trust game-thrower Darius. Despite his fantastic traits, him even being in position for a victory was something of a fluke compared to previous games, and he even managed to choke that! Burger King isn't impressive but could easily ruin the game for someone else by going into some religious aggression. His behavior in the early turns is likely to be a wildcard yet again in the finals, though it is significantly less likely to favor him this time...

One More Time!: Willem falls on his face, gets eaten by Gilgamesh. Charlemagne really does get 2v1'd this time. Darius can't survive to the end, Russia wilier than Genghis or Gilgamesh. Cosmonauts end it when the low peace weights stop the offensive.

RefSteel: Kublai Khan might be the most underrated leader in this competition. There was even some discussion in the thread at Realms Beyond about how he's an awful AI because he doesn't build enough units - when in fact he builds just the right number for a low-peace-weight leader whose enemies are most likely to have low unit counts themselves. Once he's planning war, of course his unit count will rise, and his aggression rating is high enough that he's likely to be the one plotting war when his relations with someone are poor. On this beautiful mirrored map, his natural ally is Gilgamesh, who is also very close to him in peace weight, and I'm guessing they're going to roll the higher-peace-weight leaders one by one, with their split of the Dutch - the civ to whose land Russia has the least access - ultimately helping them first and second place. Of course, religious fallout and other random factors could well trample this prediction into the dust ... which will only help Mr. Xanadu fly under the radar again next season!

Brian Shanahan: Interesting to note that three of this year's finalists are debutants, none of whom have done that well previously. This will make for an unusual game, I think. The other interesting note I see is that I think the south has the stronger AIs, with Stalin and Kublai (the two leading candidates) situated as neighbours. Hence why I'm picking Dayrush as my winner. As the stronger of the northern candidates I think he can get enough of a lead in the north to translate into something of an underdog victory before the winner of the Russian-Mongolian wars can get around to attempting to taking him down. Willem is first to die because he's just pathetic at expanding. Of course what I really want to happen is Mansa Musa to return from space, kick everybody's behinds and romp home to victory on turn 150.

lightms: I don't know what's going to happen, but Willem appears to be the new Stalin, even more than Stalin

JackDRB: I must admit, this linup very much surprises me (in a good way), considering on the power rankings only two of these leaders are ranked in the top ten! I actually think Willem can win this game, given his relatively low peaceweight, he is likely to be able to tech in peace for a while, at least until Darius and Burger King is gone, and a field of highly aggressive leaders aren't nearly as scary once you zoom past them in technology. For second, Stalin looks in good position to pick up spoils from both leaders I think will definitely die this game, and is highly aggressive himself, so he will get a good amount of territory for himself, even if I don't think he would be able to translate that into a technological lead. First to die I see as being Darius because, well, he's going to be the big fat red target that all the other agressive AIs gravitate towards to.

Y3llowSheep: Who knows? This year has been the year of darkhorses, so anything goes.

Championship Game Picking Contest Entry Form