Civ4 AI Survivor Season 4: Wildcard 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.

The Wildcard Game is our "last chance" match, the final opportunity for the surviving leaders from the opening round to advance into the playoffs. We had fewer leaders than ever before make it into the Wildcard Game in Season Four, with only six total leaders managing to limp their way out of brutal series of opening contests. Four of these leaders had the Protective trait and I don't think that was a coincidence. The Protective trait can stall out a losing game and make elimination less likely, but it doesn't do much of anything to actually win a game. In any case, the Protective trait would be shared between Churchill, Mao, Saladin, and Wang Kon in this game. Saladin and Wang Kon seemed likely to split the religions in this game, and that could contribute to diplomatic tension between north and south. Suryavarman brought the best traits for expanding to this game, while Rangar would be on hand to bring the crazy over-aggression that we all know and love.

One other highly important feature unique to the Wildcard Game: this is the only AI match that we run that uses the Raging Barbarians setting. The leaders that could best handle the hordes of barbarians would be in the best position to win this game and move on to the playoff round.

Churchill of England
Traits: Charismatic, Protective
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 6
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: None, Eliminated in all three opening round games
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 point, tied 39th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Churchill is another candidate for the worst trait pairing in Civ4. He has the thoroughly awful Charismatic and Protective duo, a combination that offers no economic advantages and very little in the way of direct combat power either. It's not exactly a power combo. Churchill is one of three English leaders, bringing once more the powerful Redcoat and Stock Exchange. As an AI personality, Churchill has military and gold flavors. His numbers are fairly average for the most part, although it's worth noting that Churchill disdains wonders (2/10 rating) and likes to spend on espionage (7/10). He has a moderate aggression rating at 4.3 out of 10, and a neutral standing in peace weight. Churchill is fairly bland as an AI leader, there isn't a whole lot that makes him stand out from the crowd. He'll have to play a strong game to overcome the weakness of those pathetic traits, something he has not done in past seasons thus far.

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: 6
Overall Power Ranking: 15 points, tied 10th 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.

Ragnar of the Vikings
Traits: Financial, Aggressive
Starting Techs: Fishing, Hunting
Peace Weight: 0
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: Ragnar is essentially the polar opposite of Lincoln. The Great Emancipator is the second most peaceful leader in the game; Ragnar is the second most warlike, behind Montezuma and only by a fingernail. Ragnar has Aggressive and Financial traits, which has often made him a popular pick in our Pitboss games. His Viking civ has the Berserker unique unit and the Trading Post unique building, both of which are extremely strong on water maps. They probably won't do too much on a Pangaea though. Anyway, Ragnar's traits and civilization are both above average, but what sets him apart is his AI personality. Ragnar AI is another leader in the Montezuma / Temujin / Shaka mold. He has only one flavor: MILITARY. He builds units at a ridiculous pace (10/10 rating). And as mentioned before, Ragnar is the second most likely leader to declare war in the game, with an aggression rating of 9.9 out of 10. That's a normalized score based off of Montezuma's AI, which shows that there's virtually no difference between Ragnar and Monty. Ragnar also sits at the bottom of the peace weight scale, ranked as low as it's possible to go as an "Evil" leader. He's going to be predisposed to hate any peaceful builders, and with such a gigantic focus on military, Ragnar will have a great opportunity to go conquering.

Saladin of Arabia
Traits: Spiritual, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, The Wheel
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: No First or Second Place Finishes
Best Finish: Wildcard Round in Season Three
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 1 point, tied 39th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Saladin was another leader who was gutted by the Civ4 expansions, when his traits were changed to their current pairing of Spiritual and Protective. That Protective trait is the kiss of death for leaders. He is the only Arabian leader, and brings the Camel Archer and Madrassa unique items. Arabia has arguably the worst pair of starting techs in the game, the combination of Mysticism and The Wheel, neither of which are tied to improving any food resources. Needless to say, Arabia isn't exactly a popular civilization for our Multiplayer events. Saladin the AI has military and religious flavors, and he's another personality who places a lot of focus on religion. Saladin likes to demand that other leaders convert to his religion (8/10), and he places a major penalty on leaders with rival faiths. His favorite civic is also Theocracy. Saladin is otherwise average in aggression rating (5.5 out of 10) and in the middle of the peace weight scales as a "Neutral" figure in alignment. He'll try to found his own religion, then like anyone who has it, and hate anyone who doesn't. Pretty easy to understand.

Suryavarman of the Khmer
Traits: Creative, Expansive
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Third Place in Season One Championship
Total Kills: 5
Overall Power Ranking: 12 points, tied 13th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: As anyone who's played Civ4 Multiplayer games at Realms Beyond likely already knows, Suryavarman has Creative and Expansive traits. (It's a testament to his popularity that I can spell that name without looking at it!) These are extremely strong traits that favor early expansion and growth. He also gets the Ballista Elephant and Baray to play around with, which are fairly average. Suryavarman AI has gold and culture flavors, along with a high wonder emphasis (8/10). Yet he also builds a decent amount of units, and has a high aggression rating of 7.6 out of 10. His AI performance is another one that's a mixed bag, hard to figure out. Still, Suryavarman is one of the most likely leaders to expand out to a large size and start snowballing from there. Sury has had one outstanding season of AI Survivor and two disastrous seasons. Which path will he follow this year?

Wang Kon of Korea
Traits: Financial, Protective
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 1 First Place Finish
Best Finish: Playoff Round in Season Three
Total Kills: 4
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 19th place (out of 52 leaders)

AI Summary from Season One: Wang Kon is the other Protective leader with a second good trait, in this case pairing it with the Financial trait. This is almost enough to make Wang Kon a viable leader in our events. Almost, but not quite. (Side note: the way that Firaxis gave the Protective trait to a bunch of Asian leaders is arguably racist, and at the very least in rather bad taste. We've got Churchill and Charlemagne as Protective leaders, and then Gilgamesh, Mao, Qin, Saladin, Sitting Bull, Tokugawa, and Wang Kon. This deserved a little bit more tact.) Wang Kon is the only Korean leader, and has the Hwacha and Seowon unique items. These both work rather well in the hands of the AI, especially the hwacha since the AI loves to build catapults in vast numbers. Wang Kon AI has gold and science flavors, a clear economic emphasis for his research. He is very average in all of his ratings, although Wang's aggression rating is higher than you might expect at 6.1 out of 10. In every other way he's a peaceful economic guy, but not that one. Wang Kon has a high peace rating as "Good" leader. He could develop and become a major force in this game if he's able to avoid some of the more testy leaders at the other end of the peace weight scale. Wang Kon earned the nickname "Troll Kon" in Season Two for his head-scratching performance in Game Two, wherein he essentially became leader of North Korea and engaged in wildly self-destructive behavior while trolling everyone else on the map. That led to an elimination at the hands of Huayna Capac, and the two leaders met once again in the opening round of Season Three. Wang's subsequent victory over Charlemagne in that match was one of the craziest finishes we've ever seen, not just in AI Survivor, but in Civ4 period. Expect to see more baffling (and brilliant?!) decisions from the Korean leader.

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

The community vote picked Mao as a strong favorite for this game, with more than half of the contest entries selecting him to be the winner. Suryavarman was a clear, if distant, second in this category and Wang Kon also drew a few votes from his fans. The other three leaders had virtually no support from the community and had to be viewed as longshots. The Runner Up category indicated a preference for the same three leaders in some combination, either Suryavarman or Mao or Wang Kon. At the other end of the spectrum, Wang Kon appeared again as a slight favorite to be First to Die, with Ragnar hot on his heels in this shameful category. Amazingly, more people picked "None" in this category (1) than picked Mao (0)! If anything confirmed Mao as the favorite, it was that.

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!

Keler (artdeco): I know one thing for sure that Wang Kon will not win this game no matter what. And I am not a fan of Suryavarman the Clastrophobie. Creative so what? Just like Pericles in the last game I guess. I am a fan of Saladin. He is the best AI here, but his starting location kind of sucks. Beside the community here thinks he is bad AI based on 3 seasons only. Time to prove them wrong Saladin! Saladin's starting position seems the worst here but the map looks balanced enough except Mao Zedong's outstanding starting location. So I guess Saladin will just try to out tech, something he is good at and eventually capture few cities from Khmer and Mao Zedong will just snowball over Korea and dominate the map.

Lone Wolf: No leader here really stands out... my prediction is that financial Wang Kon will win - he certainly has the capability of winning - after Ragnar conquers the Khmer and divides the Chinese with Wang. Saladin will just turtle up in his corner of the map, fending off conquest attempts but not doing much else. Optionally, he may conquer the English.

Warclam: Mao's spot looks good. Great land, Ragnar and Suryavarman aren't going to be inclined to mess with him. Now, peace weight suggests Wang will die first. Even Saladin is 4 away from him. On the other hand… not only will the Troll Force protect Wang, but Suryavarman is in the middle of the map, so his lack of protective is going to get him in trouble with the raging barbs. I feel like Suryavarman will be kept weak by barbs, then taken down first, to Saladin's benefit. Meanwhile, Mao techs like crazy, joins an almighty dogpile on Wang, then devours Churchill. Ragnar flails like a ninny until he picks a fight with Saladin and gets spanked. Mao gets along well enough with the northerners that it probably won't be domination, so… space it is.

Hydrocyanide: These leaders are mostly terrible, so here's just hoping for Wang Kon Magic.

RefSteel: Were the south-central AI any other high-peace-weight leader, this game could be expected to play out by the (little red) book. The northern warmongers would band together against their most-hated enemy, allowing China, starting closest to the spoils in the first place, to join in decisively at the end, wind up with most or all of the victim's land, and snowball from there. But this isn't just any high-peace-weight leader: The question of the game can only be, "How is Wang Kon going to get out of THIS one?" My answer? *I have no idea!* Not because it seems impossible, but because I've long since given up any attempt to predict the acknowledged lord and king of all the trolls.

Dantski: Mao and Ragnar bully Wang like a couple of power mad moderators punishing a troll for misbehaving. Mao then hoovers up the map counter clockwise before teching to space, taking his good buddy Ragnar with him. Space Vikings become a thing.

Latif: Well, Mao looks like he has the best land - lots of floodplains, and a private peninsula to expand into. I had picked Ragnar to finish second last game... won't make that mistake again! He's too psycho for his own good, and it looks like his start will be slow. Rags will probably declare an early war, waste lots of units, and start falling behind in tech as well as power as he throws his units away against city walls. I have Ragnar first to die, and that benefits Mao. I see Mao jumping out to a quick start and an early score lead, if he can handle the barbs as well as Ragnar's possible aggression. Mao's other neighbor Wang Kon has kind of a crappy starting position, one off the coast, not many rivers, no seafood in sight on his (tundra) coastline. Second place is hard to call, but with the logic above of Ragnar self-destructing, Sury, his other neighbor, also stands to benefit. He could very well have peace as well with Saladin who will probably spread his religion to him. Mao by domination, thought about culture because of the Pavilion, but his disdain for religion probably rules that out, and with his weak neighbors he could easily get really big.

Commodore: I can't overemphasize how scared I am of my prediction: Wang Kon first to die, Mao and Sury profit the most to go to the playoffs. This is directly challenging Troll Kon to troll me personally...and Ragnar the Random is here to help him.

LinkMarioSamus: I'm going to fall back on my metric of past competition these leaders have faced that served me so well in picking Tokugawa to win that one game and hasn't done much for me since. I do think it helps explain some of the results of this season, but who even knows anymore? I guess it's as good a metric as anything else, and it predicts Wang Kon to win with either Churchill or Saladin taking 2nd - going with the former because he's more likely to be allied with Wang Kon - and Suryavarman dying first. The reason for Wang and Churchill is because they were both in the one Season Two game with Huayna Capac, Boudica, and Stalin, and the only real dud AI leader in that field was Montezuma. Wang Kon was also in the Season Three game with Charlemagne, Huayna Capac, and Tokugawa. Maybe this all seems arbitrary, but again, who the heck knows in this crazy season? To be fair I could easily see Wang Kon and Ragnar both attack Suryavarman early and possibly work together to kill him or at least wear him down in concert. Then maybe Mao is next on the chopping block, and Saladin doesn't succeed in spreading his religion very well? Again, who in the world knows this season. Predicting these games can be a bit of an exercise in futility, but we're largely doing this for fun so I don't have much of a problem with it.

TMIT: Mao and Sury are the favorites here, and I like Sury a bit more. I'm gambling that Ragnar doesn't target him first, but this is not a fast-expanding AI field other than Sury so he can jump out to a big city count fast. I expect Saladin will found a religion he shares with Sury and mostly get left alone. Churchill will be unpopular on this map and sucks in general so he's my vote for first to die. Mao is #2 by default but could easily be #1, his starting position is fine too and he has a good history in AI survivor. Ragnar takes the usual kingmaker role based on who he attacks. He almost never makes himself king, he's generous like that. Generous with units.

Shpoko: The Troll King will have to be at the top of his game to make it through this one, I just don't see it happening. Mao and Surya team up to take out Wang and Churchill, then race to space.

Faded_Outline: I can't parse this... raging barbs throw any predicted game plan into doubt, and with four protective civs in play who knows who, if anyone, is going to feel like expanding. In the midst of the chaos, Wang Kon is laughing at us. God help our scores

Wildcard Game Picking Contest Entry Form