Civ4 AI Survivor Season 4: Game Five 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.

Unlike the past two games which had heavy favorites drawn from the two pools of seeded leaders, this game appears to be much more wide open. The Pool 1 leader for Game Five was Kublai Khan, who reached the championship game twice in Seasons Two and Three but didn't appear to be as strong as some of the true powerhouses in this competition. He was joined in this game by Zara Yacob as the other seeded leader, someone who did well in Season One but struggled in the following two seasons of AI Survivor. The other leaders drawn into this game were a collection of mostly aggressive fellows. We had Alexander and Genghis Khan Temujin, the two of them starting next to one another as neighbors, both of them keen to start cracking some skulls. The Mongol vs Mongol grudge match in this game looked like it would be fun. Tokugawa also made an appearance as the isolationist, "I hate everyone else", AI leader personality that rarely seems to achieve much. The one individual who seemed out of place in this game was Bismarck, sporting Expansive and Industrious traits that no one else shared. None of the AI leaders in this game seemed to have particularly good economic traits, and in contrast to Game Four, no one started with Mysticism tech and had a particularly strong religious bent. Four of the six leaders in this game were packing the Aggressive trait, meaning free promotions all around for everyone's melee units.

Pool One Leader

Kublai Khan of the Mongols
Traits: Aggressive, Creative
Starting Techs: Hunting, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 2 First Place and 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Seasons Two and Three
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 20 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 Mansa Musa, 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 two neighbors with middling peace weights. Kublai reached the Championship in Seasons Two and Three and has collected half a dozen kills thus far, marking him as another leader to watch. He often seems to fly under the radar despite two consecutive years in the Championship.

Pool Two Leader

Zara Yacob of Ethiopia
Traits: Creative, Organized
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: 1 First Place and 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Second Place in Championship Game in Season One
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 16th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Zara is our last leader for this game, and the final leader of the game in alphabetical order. Zara has Creative and Organized traits, bringing along the Oromo Warrior and Stele as unique stuff. I have a soft spot for Zara since he led us to victory in the Apolyton Demogame a number of years back. As an AI, Zara has growth and religious flavors. He sits in the middle of the table on most of the important numbers, like unit and wonder focus, and has a medium aggression rating of 5.6 out of 10. Zara AI also places a huge emphasis on religion, with a massive shared faith bonus (as much as +9 diplo points!) and a large penalty for differing faiths. Like Justinian, his favorite civic is also Theocracy. Zara AI therefore mostly follows a middle of the road path, but he carries a serious grudge over religion.

Season Three Addition: Zara is another leader who has experienced a great deal of success in past years of AI Survivor, especially in Season One. He's won two games and nearly climbed out of the Wildcard match to take the entire competition that year. Even in a down year in Season Two, he still made the Wildcard game again and finished in 21st place. With that said, all of Zara's top finishes came in Season One and he has failed to claim a single kill or a top two finish in the last few seasons. Can he imitate Justinian and bring back the Season One magic?

Unseeded Leaders

Alexander of Greece
Traits: Aggressive, Philosophical
Starting Techs: Hunting, Fishing
Peace Weight: 0
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Season One
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 36th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Alexander is among the most warlike of the AI leaders in Civ4. He has Aggressive and Philosophical traits, an odd pairing that doesn't lend itself to much synergy. As a Greek leader, he brings the Phalanx and Odeon, with the unique unit axe that doesn't die to chariots being the stronger of the pair by far. Alexander the AI has military and growth flavors, with a heavy emphasis on training units (8/10). He also has a very high aggression rating at 8.6 out of 10, putting him amongst the most militaristic leaders we've seen thus far. Alexander is likely to go to war early and often. Whether that will be a successful strategy is hard to say. In past years of this competition, it hasn't been too successful - zero kills in three seasons is pretty sad for the Macedonian.

Bismarck of Germany
Traits: Expansive, Industrious
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: None, Eliminated in all three opening round games
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 44th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

AI Summary from Season One: Bismarck has been played quite a bit in our Multiplayer events, especially in smaller Play By Email games, when he can be paired in an unrestricted combination with civs like India or Mali. Bismarck has Expansive and Industrious traits, meaning that he's virtually guaranteed an early wonder of his choice if played correctly. The combination of cheap granaries and cheap forges can also be very strong. Bismarck is unfortunately tied in this game to the German civilization, which has two very late unique items in the Panzer and the Assembly Plant. They usually arrive too late to matter. Bismarck the AI only has one research flavor: MILITARY. Unlike some of the other suicidally aggressive AI leaders with this flavor, however, Bismarck is much more balanced in his preferences. His aggression rating is just a touch below average at 5.6 out of 10, and he's right in the middle of the peace weight scale. Bismarck AI also has middle of the road ratings for wonders and units, both of them sitting at 6/10. In other words, Bismarck will heavily emphasize military techs, but he won't be as crazy in declaring war as someone like Shaka or Montezuma. While in theory this setup might suit him well, it hasn't led to much success in the first three seasons. Bismarck has been totally pathetic thus far, eliminated in every opening round game without scoring a single kill.

Genghis Khan Temujin of the Mongols
Traits: Aggressive, Imperialistic
Starting Techs: Hunting, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 0
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Wildcard Round in Season One
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 points, tied 39th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Oh boy. Right out of the gate, we're starting with the great khan himself. Temujin has Aggressive and Imperialistic traits in Civ4, well suited to rapid expansion and military conquest. His Mongol civilization has the Keshik as a unique horseman replacement, and the Ger as a unique building. Both of them are above average, and the Ger in particular could have a long shelf life in one of these games. Temujin the AI has exactly one flavor: MILITARY. He will heavily emphasize techs that add heavier swords and bigger guns. Temujin also has a strong preference for building units (8/10), he demands tribute constantly, and brings an aggression rating of 9.5 to the table. That's the 3rd highest out of the 52 leaders in this game, and can often lead the khan into picking wars he can't win. In addition to the rest, Temujin also has Police State as his favorite civic. This guy is infamous for his warring ways, expect him to stir up plenty of trouble... although it hasn't worked out too well in practice in past seasons. Like Montezuma, Temujin is too aggressive for his own good, starting ill-conceived conflicts while doing a poor job of managing his economy. With this weaker field of opponents, perhaps this will be his time to shine.

Tokugawa of Japan
Traits: Aggressive, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Season Two
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 4 points, tied 27th 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.

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

After a few days with no clear pattern, we started to see a few favorites emerge in the picking contest. Kublai Khan surged out as the pick to win from almost half of the entrants, with Zara in a distant second place and the other leaders not having much backing. I think that this might be a situation where no one has a great feel for the game and lots of people are backing the top seeded leader by default. Bismarck was a larger favorite in the First to Die category, with his poor showing in past years combined with a relatively high peace weight making him a perceived dead man walking. Tokugawa's self-sabotaging isolationist personality caused a number of people to choose him as well on the quick exit list. We had the standard "no one has a clue" broad spread of picks in the runner-up category, and a heavy preference for Domination as the victory condition. Despite the high number of people backing Kublai Khan, I genuinely think that this game is pretty wide open and subject to a lot of variability depending on how the religions fall and where the early wars break out.

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!

Vincarius: Tough to predict for me. I dont like these leaders that much except zara. However, due to the low peaceweights of 4/6 leaders I feel like zara and bismarck are gonna get smacked. I like alexanders position, not so much kublai's but I hope his ai is more competent than gengis and tokugawa. Because of low peaceweight I expect alexander and kublai will share the spoils of zara after which they are both in a superior position compared to the others. I predict a lot of crazy wars so should get interesting.

Alhambram: Unfortunately the wacky world is too little for two Khans, Kublai is likely going be one true Khan in this game. Alexander and Tokugawa are simply too psychopatic to survive, maybe they can arrange to do fall of grace at same moment. Bismarck didn't get fortune cookie by being in this group and is likely to die first. Zara is asking others to avert their greedy gaze from him while building space ship in record time to escape from this planet of madness.

Faded_Oultine: Tokugawa. Why? Because he's got traits and a mindset very well suited to "sharing" a continent with two mongol hordes and the conqueror of the ancient world. They're not going to be friends regardless of what peace weight similarities might suggest, so may as well turtle up on those delicious starting fish (and hopefully the double gems), counterpunch to victory when Temujin and Alexander come calling, and roll the rest of the field up form there. Of course it's not going to actually pan out that way, but this field of competitors is Ieyasu-sama's best and only chance to finally eat the cake.

Brian Shanahan: I'm actually liking Alexander's start this time. Despite him doing little to nothing the last three seasons, I actually think he can be dangerous. And with all strategic resources close to hand and a good economic base from his first few cities Alex could pull off a bit of a shock here. Zara second because I think he's actually the most balanced AI in the game, and with his religious bent he's got a strong chance of making a few allies. Despite Bismarck having just as good a land as Alex, he'll just sit around doing nothing again and will get et by the first Civ that sneezes on him. I'm going for a lateish date for me because a) there's a good lot of land to settle, and b) there's no real techers in the group.

Fluffball: If I had to pick one word to sum my predictions this game it would be :????? Toku with a fairly gnarly start; gold, gems, wine and plenty of room, 4 food resource capital... but it's Toku. Zara is probably the best leader so I'm not going to read the map and pick him.

Fjord: Mongols and low peace weight civs combine for the ultimate cheese with a diplo win !!!! No idea to be honest but I think Bismarck is doomed surrounded by aggressive leaders / probably Zara too, but Zara has had a knack of surviving rediculous odds and will possibly focus on wonders rather than religion at least to start with. Predict Zara for apostolic palace so lots of fake wars and peace when he starts to loose land. I like Ghengisís start more as he has the techs to improve right away so and going for him instead of Kublai. Will probably be completely useless as usual, but letís see :)

UnforcedError: I frankly cannot see Zara and Bismarck make it through the game. They will be dogpiled and eliminated faster than they can say Feudalism. I will pick Bismarck for FtD, as he seems to have somewhat less room to expand. The rest will love each other on sight, they will have trade bonuses, shared war bonuses and they will stay pleased / friendly though most of the game (despite possible religious differences). The winner will largely depend on who has the most spoils from the wars against Zara and Bismarck. Hence I would favor the two Mongolian leaders in this game, Kublai because of his position on the map and Genghis because he has the best war potential of the four. Genghis hasn't done well in past AI survival games but he had a more than impressive run on the Earth map and I expect him to repeat that performance here. I will pick domination for VC but if he falls a few percents short it could easily be diplo or space. Not easy to call, this one.

marbe166: Djinghis Khan will wage the first war and kill Toku, but will fall behind so much that he will be the next one to go. Zara Yacob will spread his religion to Alexander.

Charriu: You were right, this was a hard one. In the end I think our Top player Kublai will make it. He has a rather weak AI in Bismarck and will eat him together with Tokugawa. It's also likely that he will discover a religion due to his Culture flavor. Zara Yacob will most likely discover the first religion, but this will sour his relations with Kublai with Zara ending on the choping block. Tokugawa has an excellent starting position for him. He also has gold and non-jungle gems near by, which will help him building up a tech bonus. Together with Kublai he will eat Bismarck, which could also help with their relations. This will bring him to second place. Meanwhile Genghis and Alexander will play "nice" in their little corner, dragging both down.

ZincAlloy: It's time for the great Khan, Temujin, to ride his horses across the ocean and invade Japan, just like in the history books! Unfortunately, after that Alexander tries to conquer the known world, but he only knows of Temujin's land and so they fight forever. This lets Zara build a spaceship and win by conquering the unknown world or whatever.

Burninator1729: After the Mongol conquest of the world, they will build a spaceship and rule the galaxy as grandfather and grandson.

LaserGuy: I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is Tokugawa's game to shine. He's got a huge amount of land available to him, a very nice capitol with fish resources he can immediately access, and that double gem + gold just around the corner should allow him to get some good research output early on. If he can beat Bismarck in the inevitable war between them, it's his game to lose. Zara has solid winning chances with the only decent economic traits of the bunch, but spams enough units to keep up with his aggressive neighbors. Expect to see a lot of pointless and unproductive wars between Alexander and Genghis that will cripple both of them and accomplish nothing.

SleepingDragon5: What is best in life? To crush your enemies, to see their picking score driven to zero, and hear the lamentation of their failed predictions. Which is what'll happen here because who knows who'll emerge out of this mass of barbarians.

Game Five Picking Contest Entry Form