Civ4 AI Survivor Season 4: Game Six 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.

Game Six saw the appearance of one of AI Survivor's biggest juggernauts in the form of Mansa Musa. The Malinese king was the top rated leader over the first three seasons of the competition with five different first place finishes and two trips to the Championship game. He appeared to have drawn a friendly opening round set of opponents and Mansa seemed prime to head back to the playoffs yet again. Joining Mansa Musa were several other high peace weight leaders with good economic traits, namely Darius of Persia and Hatshepsut of Egypt, along with the ever-annoying presence of Sitting Bull. He had been ineffective enough in past years to draw the mocking nickname of "Sitting Duck" for annoying his low peace weight neighbors and starting suicidal wars. On the other end of the peace weight spectrum was Mao Zedong, who didn't bring terribly effective traits to the table yet did manage several trips to the playoffs in past years. Partnering with Mao were two other low peace weight leaders in Brennus and Gilgamesh, and this game seemed to be setting up into a "Good versus Evil" showdown. One of these two groups of leaders would likely survive intact, with the other group probably all being eliminated before the match could be decided.

Pool One Leader

Mansa Musa of Mali
Traits: Financial, Spiritual
Starting Techs: The Wheel, Mining
Peace Weight: 9
Past Finishes: 5 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Seasons One and Three
Total Kills: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 31 points, 1st place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Mansa Musa is one of the game's economic powerhouses, with Spiritual and Financial traits. His Malinese civ brings an excellent unit in the Skirmisher, and a decent building in the Mint. I once dubbed Mansa Musa as having the "winner" AI in the same sense as Tokugawa has the "loser" AI, since he favors trading and peaceful development. Mansa AI has gold and religious flavors, the latter of which you might not expect. He actually founds his own religion pretty frequently, despite not starting with Mysticism tech. Mansa Musa has a very low aggression rating of 1.6 out of 10; basically, this guy wants to be left alone to tech in peace. Mansa will be reigned in slightly by turning off tech trading (where he swaps techs like crazy), but he's still one to watch.

Season Three Addition: Mansa has been one of the most dominant AIs in past years of competition, winning FIVE of the eight games that he's appeared in. There is arguably no AI in the whole game more terrifying from an economic perspective, and when Mansa Moneybags gets his cottages up and running all across his empire, he can be almost unstoppable. On the other hand, Mansa's also been eliminated completely in the other three games that he appeared in. If he gets roughed up too much by aggressive neighbors, it can all fall apart quickly for him. Mansa Musa is essentially a better, more capable version of Gandhi.

Pool Two Leader

Mao Zedong of China
Traits: Expansive, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Mining
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Championship Game in Season Two
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 14 points, tied 11th 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 Three 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. The magic didn't continue with an early elimination in Season Three, but it's fair to say that Mao has punched above his weight in the competition to date.

Unseeded Leaders

Brennus of the Celts
Traits: Spiritual, Charismatic
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Seasons One and Two
Total Kills: 3
Overall Power Ranking: 7 points, tied 20th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Brennus has Spiritual and Charismatic traits in Civ4. As one of the two Celtic leaders, he has access to the Gallic Swordsman unique unit and the Dun as a unique building. Outside of the Spiritual trait, all of these are viewed as being fairly weak options - I can't recall anyone choosing to play Brennus in a standard Pitboss game of Civ4. Brennus the AI has a medium military flavor, along with an emphasis on religion. He has an aggression rating of 7/10, which is above average and make him a bit of a warmongerer. Brennus AI also cares a lot about religion, with a major bonus to shared faith and a large penalty to other competitors. He's a fairly average AI in total. I'm still trying to figure out if his excellent past performances - two trips to the playoffs and never having been eliminated in five games - are a product of a stronger than average AI personality or dumb luck. Brennus has done a good job at avoiding elimination but has never definitively dominated a game of AI Survivor.

Darius of Persia
Traits: Financial, Organized
Starting Techs: Agriculture, Hunting
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Season Two
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 3 points, tied 30th 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 Three Addition: No leader has let us down more times in the first three seasons of AI Survivor than Darius. Again and again he has 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. Once again, it seems as though he's landed an advantageous starting position on the map. Will this finally be the time that he breaks through, or is the football going to yanked away at the last minute once more?

Gilgamesh of Sumeria
Traits: Creative, Protective
Starting Techs: Agriculture, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 2
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: 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 two eastern and western neighbors at all. In past seasons, Gilgamesh has been a total flop of a leader and achieved absolutely nothing, getting eliminated in all three appearances.

Hatshepsut of Egypt
Traits: Creative, Spiritual
Starting Techs: Agriculture, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 9
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Wildcard Game in Season Two
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 0 points, tied 44th place (out of 52 leaders - dead last place)

AI Summary from Season One: Hatshepsut reminds me of Suryavarman, in the sense that it's a very tough name to spell that I nonetheless have down by heart given her popularity for our Multiplayer events. Hatty is Spiritual and Creative for traits, and brings along the strong Egyptian package of the War Chariot and Obelisk. When using Restricted leaders, this is a very powerful combination. Hatshepsut the AI has a strong focus on culture, religion, and building wonders. Her low unit emphasis (only rated 2/10) can get her into trouble with the more aggressive AIs. Hatshepsut is below average in aggression rating at 3.7 out of 10, and makes for an excellent neighbor in Single Player games. She's a tough competitor if left unmolested by foreign attack. Hatshepsut has performed poorly in past seasons, dying in Season One and avoiding elimination in Season Two only because of a single city that couldn't be reached by her attackers due to a lack of Open Borders. Then she put on an epic troll job by defying every UN Resoution for no particular reason. Aside from pretending to be North Korea, Hatty has done very little in past seasons.

Sitting Bull of the Native Americans
Traits: Philosophical, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Agriculture
Peace Weight: 8
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: Sitting Bull is a mostly peaceful figure who generally wants to be left alone. He has Philosophical and Protective traits, that second one again being the reason why we never see Sitting Bull played in Multiplayer stuff. The Native American civ has the Dog Soldier and Totem Pole unique items, neither of which has ever impressed me very much. Then again, given the AI's love of archers, Sitting Bull AI might get something out of his Protective + totem pole combination. As an AI, Sitting Bull has military and growth flavors. He's odd in the sense that his aggression rating is well below average (4.3 out of 10), but Sitting Bull trains a lot of units and tends to go after military techs. He doesn't start wars, but at the same time he doesn't like to be conquered. The other odd feature of Sitting Bull AI is his love of espionage spending and tribute demands, both of which he does all the time. Sitting Bull has performed horribly in past seasons, getting eliminated in every past appearance of AI Survivor.

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

I fully expected Mansa Musa to be the heavy favorite to win this game in the picking contest. However, I was still caught off guard by the lopsided result that we had going into this match. Well over 80% of the picking contests chose Mansa to take home the crown again, the highest percentage backing a single leader in AI Survivor history. Mansa had almost ten times as many votes as the next highest leader. We'll see if he can live up to that lofty billing when the game takes place. Elsewhere, Mao was a much bigger favorite for the runner-up spot than we typically see in these AI Survivor matches. A lot of people had him splitting the map with Mansa. Hatshepsut was another strong favorite as First to Die with almost half of the entrants chosing her, along with perennial loser Sitting Bill coming in as another popular choice. Not surprisingly, Spaceship was the overwhelming victory type choice for this game. More people picked Cultural and Diplomatic victories than Domination - a big change from our last game!

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!

elNewton: Mansa next to Sitting Duck and Darius is a good position. With Hatty there is also a low PW leader that the aggressive civs probably hate even more. Mao seems to be the best of the more aggressive leaders in this game cause of his start and general personality and could very well be the best of the rest. Gilgamesh just seems to be in a rough spot in between the "good" leaders and will possibly face two front wars. Sitting Bull will most likely just be around and do nothing after that as that is kind of his gimmick. Going for a relatively early Spaceship as this is how Mansa usually wins games. The high war number is due to the differences in PW that are in this game.

Methoz: Hatti is surrounded by low peace weight AIs and is short on space so she will die first. Then Sitting Bull and Darius will draw fire from Gilgamesh and Brennus respectively while Mansa and Mao are content to tech. Mansa obviously out techs Mao and coasts to a relatively quick space victory without ever firing a shot.

Faded_Outline: Well clearly the winner is going to be Sitting Bull. That start is delightful, he's got a couple of friendly neighbors to offer support and oh my I'm so sorry i can't keep a straight face about this... No. Good god no. This is the season of the impossible where Isabella can be a runaway monster, the likes of Asoka or Frederick pick wars of aggression and Tokugawa can have a serious chance of diplomatic victory, but even in that context there's no imaginable world where Chief Sitting duck accomplishes anything beyond stalling out Team Evil until Mansa flips them off from his spaceship. Sorry. Mansa first, Darius as his co-pilot. Hatty as a light snack for the violent earthbound masses before they dissolve into infighting.

ZincAlloy: Mansa Musa wins with the power of friendship! Or money. I'm pretty sure those are the same thing. Regardless, Mansa will get along with / hide behind Darius and the city-state of Cahokia for long enough to turn his economy into an unstoppable powerhouse. Hatshepsut dies first due to being surrounded by the trio of violence, of whom I'm going to pick Brennus to come second because I like his beard.

RefSteel: Abandoning all pretense here: I'm picking Hatty to win this because I like her. She's a fun and friendly AI to have in a single-player game, her play is often competent by AI standards - her AI Survivor record notwithstanding - and I kind of loved her North Korea (t)roleplay from Season 2. I could make up a bunch of reasons for how she'll overcome being surrounded by leaders who hate her, and how she'll eventually defeat Gilgamesh while he batters his armies against Sitting Duck's ninety four quintillion protective totem pole archers, but I wouldn't even believe it myself. I'll just hope she manages to survive long enough for Mansa Musa to tech up to tanks and conquer all her enemies so her three remaining cities can go legendary and give her a come-from-behind Cultural victory.

Aus Prof: Mao’s start is godly, Mansa’s personality is godly, ‘nuff said.

LinkMarioSamus: By any metric you can think of Mansa Musa should be the favorite to win this. I decided to weigh this all out by the fields of the previous games involving these games, and based on that Musa is an easy pick to win while Sitting Bull is a probable pick for second. I mean, it has to be one of the higher-peace weight guys, and Hatty/Darius are maybe a little too passive, so maybe Bull has a chance? I imagine we won't have a kill for a long time because none of the higher peace-weight leaders have much of a killer instinct, meaning the lower peace-weight leaders might attack into their brick walls and go nowhere in the process. Brennus is my pick for first to die going off my earlier method.

haphazard1: Gilgamesh will demonstrate that having stone is a poison pill for wonder-inclined leaders. Mansa will tech to victory with most of the low peace weight leaders being far away. Hatshepsut will refuse to build units and will be destroyed by her more aggressive neighbors.

Charriu: What are the deciding factors in the beginning of this game: Religion and rivers. With Brennus being the only one with Mysticism, he will take the first religion. He's also connected with Gilgamesh and Mao via river. I could see those two taking up Brennus' religion. With that we have our bay boys club all together. They will most likely kill Hatshepsut, who will found her on religion. With the religion, her unit and wonder build preference, I don't see her surviving against Gilgamesh and maybe Mao. Gilgamesh could also go against Sitting Bull, but he is better setup to survive against the bad boys. The last religion will go to Mansa Musa, of course. He will most likely convert his to neighbors Sitting Bull and Darius. They will form the good guys. In the long run I could see Sitting Bull and Brennus being crushed between the two blocks. But all of this will give Mansa Musa enough time to bring this to a space victory with his buddy Darius at his side.

lightms: Apart from the seeded leaders, these guys are a bunch of monkey! The best of them is Brennus! He's like... the Roosevelt of the Celts. Mansa Musa is gonna wipe the floor with them. Mao Zedong is gonna make them Mao Ze-gone. There gonnna get Culturally Revolted. I can't think of any clever insults to do with Mansa Musa... They're gonna get universally sankored in the face? Anyway, these guys haven't got a chance vs Monty

TMIT: Mansa drawing Sitting Bull/anti rush cow as a buffer against the more aggressive leaders is a big boon. I expect SB to accomplish nothing in terms of winning as usual but he's an effective lightning rod and takes time to kill. Time the others won't have with MM around. I am predicting Hatty to die early-ish to Gilgamesh or Mao, which would shape my picks of MM #1 (culture) and Mao #2 depending who does it. However, this game could easily send Gilgamesh on SB early, which would prop up Mao to possibly favorite status or even lead to chaos where Gilgamesh gets piled/removed by otherwise weaker AI. The field is probably a bit too aggressive for Darius/Hatty absent a Gilgamesh/Brennus throw. Regardless of everything else, MM has a good start and isn't likely to see early action, which makes him an easy favorite. This is as much a league of throwing as LoL itself is though, so you never know.

Rusten: People are sleeping on Brennus. He'll kill Darius with ease and win diplomatic victory (doesn't DoW at pleased) going up against Mansa who builds the UN early as the other candidate. Votes coming from Mao and/or Gilgamesh who will have killed Hatty and Sitting Bull.

Fluffball: I mean... Mansa.

Game Six Picking Contest Entry Form