This is a continuing feature for Season Five 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. We start as always with an overview of the map:
The second playoff game featured several popular leaders from past seasons of AI Survivor as part of an overall field of veteran competitors. Everyone present in this game had made the playoffs at least once in past seasons and four of these six leaders (everyone aside from Asoka and Augustus) had reached the championship game on a previous occasion. Each of these leaders had some area of expertise in which they tended to focus. Julius Caesar would try to win the game militarily using his Imperialistic trait for fast expansion into a praetorian-fueled conquest. We would also be experiencing a Roman mirror match for the first time in this game, although Augustus would likely focus on wonder building instead of aggressive invasions. Willem was expected to have the best pure teching power thanks to his Financial trait while Asoka would emphasize culture and founding as many religions as possible. Suryavarman and Mao would likely fall somewhere in between on the spectrum, both of them experienced leaders with many successful prior games under their belt. This game looked to be a free-for-all that could end up moving in a number of different directions.
Suryavarman of the Khmer
Traits: Creative, Expansive
Starting Techs: Hunting, Mining
Peace Weight: 1
Past Finishes: 2 First Place Finishes, 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Championship Game
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 19 points, 8th place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 2 kills
Personality: Suryavarman has a lot of power packed into his kit even if it sometimes seems to be pulling in six different directions at once. He has the quintessential early game trait pairing of Creative and Expansive, two traits that help to drive expansion and to claim land quickly. This was a popular trait pairing for a long time in unmodded Civ4 Multiplayer games, often chosen ahead of Financial leaders to get off to a roaring start. Suryavarman's Khmer civ is a bit weaker, with decent starting techs and adequate unique features in the Ballista Elephant and Baray without having anything of game-breaking strength. As far as Suryavarman's AI personality goes, he has a surprisingly aggressive setup for someone with good economic traits. Suryavarman has a high aggression rating (7.6/10), a very low peace weight, and a fairly high emphasis on training units (6/10). However, Suryavarman also positively loves building wonders (8/10), an odd fit for someone with his militaristic bent and expansion-focused traits. He will heavily emphasize religion in his diplomacy and carries a special penalty for anyone who refuses his demands. Along with the Creative border pops, this is not an easy neighbor to live alongside. Suryavarman's tech preferences are Gold and Culture, and he will indeed plot war at "Pleased" relations. He can be a highly unpredictable leader, either charging into multiple wars or sitting back to construct wonders in peace.
Past Performance: Suryavarman's previous appearances have reflected his somewhat erratic nature as an AI leader. He was the winner of the first ever game of AI Survivor in Season One, via the United Nations of all things, and took second place in a very difficult field from a tough starting position in the playoffs. Suryavarman had a weaker performance in the following championship game, suffering elimination while still taking a respectable third place. Since then he's been all over the map, everything from an elimination at the hands of Pacal in Season Two to an elimination in the Wildcard game in Season Three to an outright victory in the Wildcard game in Season Four. These repeated trips to the Wildcard round mean that Suryavarman has shown up in a lot of games, nine of them in total thus far. Any leader with the rare combination of low peace weight together with good economic development makes for a dangerous opponent, and even if Suryavarman has been somewhat scattershot in recent seasons, he always has that potential to become a major threat.
Asoka of India
Traits: Spiritual, Organized
Starting Techs: Mysticism, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 2 Second Place Finishes
Best Finish:Season Two and Three Playoffs
Total Kills: 1
Overall Power Ranking: 5 points, 32nd place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 1 kill
Personality: Asoka plays with Spiritual and Organized for his traits, a decent pairing with strong economic benefit but of no use militarily. As an Indian leader, Asoka gets the above average Fast Worker and Mausoleum combo, and his starting techs are Mining and Mysticism, a pair good for chasing religions and not much else; Asoka can struggle with improving his land in the early game, though the Fast Worker at least helps him catch up. Asoka is a generally peaceful leader, but is less polarised than his counterpart Gandhi. He's got a pretty low aggression rating (3.7/10), unit build (2/10) and tribute demand (1/10) preferences, but a high wonder (8/10) build rate. With religion and science flavours, you can count on Asoka to consistently build up a strong economy as long as he's left alone. Asoka places a strong emphasis on faith, but unlike a lot of the other religious zealots, he's actually pretty easy to get along with, with a minor penalty for differing religion but a huge bonus for shared faith. In theory, Asoka should find it easy to make friends and he's unlikely to get involved in too many wars unless he finds himself in a particularly hostile world.
Past Performance: Asoka has given us a good depiction of a middle-tier economic leader. Weirdly, in his best game so far Asoka scored zero points, in a rare case where the power rankings were pretty unfair. This was Season One Game Eight, in which Asoka used the Apostolic Palace to full effect, throwing Hannibal under the bus and forcing peace after peace to delay his own demise. Asoka was within a whisker of an underdog cultural victory that game despite being short on land, and was beaten to the punch by Mao's diplomatic victory a mere five turns before he would have won. In the two following seasons, Asoka has drawn largely weak, peaceful fields, and proved himself proficient enough economically to at least draw second place both times, behind Big Brother Gandhi. Both seasons though, Asoka found himself in far more aggressive playoff games and collapsed to the aggression in rapid fashion, being first or second to die each game. Asoka's most recent appearance, opening Game Four of Season Four, played out similarly, as Asoka made himself a bunch of religious enemies and was quickly wiped out. Overall, Asoka's middling power ranking likely places him about where he should be, as when playing amongst a weak field he's certainly competent enough to advance, but like many of the other peaceful leaders his main weakness is an inability to stand up for himself in conflicts. In an unfriendly environment, Asoka is historically very unlikely to make it out alive.
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: Season Four Championship Game
Total Kills: 2
Overall Power Ranking: 9 points, tied 22nd place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 First Place Finish, 2 kills
Personality: Willem has one of the strongest economic setups in the game and he's been held back thus far only by his poorly-chosen set of research priorities. Willem has one of the best possible combinations of leader traits in the Financial + Creative pairing. Not only does Willem benefit from the free border pops and the Financial commerce bonus, there's even some basic synergy between the two in the form of cheap libraries. Willem's Dutch civilization is significantly less powerful, though it does have decent starting techs and can become strong if the Dikes ever show up in time to matter. As an AI leader Willem has middling scores in almost every category, lots of 4/10 and 5/10 ratings across the board. His aggression rating is about average at 6.7/10 and his peace weight also sits in the middle of the scale. Willem has a very low religious emphasis and he won't found his own faith very often despite his strong economic abilities. The single biggest weakness for Willem comes in the form of his tech preferences: he has Gold and Science flavors, which turn out to be one of the worst possible combinations for military tech. Willem has repeatedly refused to research Rifling technology to a ludicrous degree, in some games finishing Assembly Line and Flight (!) techs before picking up Rifling. This has led to his elimination at the hands of much less advanced civilizations as he needlessly fights with muskets against rifles. We have a general rule for Willem: if he makes it to Rifling tech then he wins the game; otherwise, he finds himself getting eliminated.
Past Performance: Willem has everything needed to be a strong leader for AI Survivor purposes and it was perplexing why his performance was so bad during the first few seasons. He successfully combines together great economic traits with a low peace weight and willingness to declare war at "Pleased" relations - this guy should be the second coming of Huayna Capac! Instead, he suffered early eliminations again and again during the first few seasons. Some of this was bad luck, as he drew a tough field of opponents in Season One and then a starting position crammed between Hannibal and Tokugawa in Season Two. Still, there's no avoiding the fact that Willem was underperforming his fundamentals, and when he was eliminated again in the opening round of Season Three, everyone was ready to write him off as a failure. This narrative flipped around in Season Four, however, with Willem finally living up to his potential by taking second place in the opening round (a game where he finished with the highest score) followed by a Cultural victory in the playoffs. He was on track to win the outright title in the Season Four Championship before a stubborn refusal to research Rifling tech doomed his efforts. It's clear by now that Willem is a serious threat to win any game in which he appears if he actually bothers to research military techs. It's his constant Achilles Heel and it will dictate how far he makes it in any match.
Julius Caesar of the Romans
Traits: Imperialistic, Organized
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 4
Past Finishes: 4 First Place Finishes
Best Finish: Season Three Championship Game
Total Kills: 11
Overall Power Ranking: 31 points, tied 4th place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 2 kills
Personality: Caesar gets access to the Imperialistic and Organized traits, the former being top-tier and the latter being below average. Imperialistic is so strong that it makes this pair powerful, however, as more land = more everything in AI Survivor. His unique items are the busted Praetorian unique unit, as well as the significantly less useful Forum, again the praetorian being so good that this pair is still well above average. Lastly, Caesar has the Fishing and Mining starting techs, a generally weak pair that becomes significantly stronger with seafood at the capital, as with all fishing starts. Caesar, more than most leaders, depends on having the right starting resources, as seafood, iron, and metal luxuries all greatly speed up his snowball, as in his dominant opening game of Season Four. And make no mistake, Caesar's game plan is to snowball. With an above average aggression rating (7.6/10), unit preference (6/10) and military/production flavours, Caesar is far more likely than not to start an early war, and with a neutral peaceweight (4), all opponents are fair game for an attack. However, in early wars Caesar has a serious ace up his sleeve: praetorians. These guys are so strong that they almost break the game, often barging their way through city walls like no other unit can. Caesar depends heavily on an extremely successful landgrab using Imperialistic, an early conquest using praetorians, or both. From there, Caesar's gameplay looks similar to many other militaristic AI's, using his extra land to out-produce everyone else. If Caesar is unable to get his snowball rolling, his poor economic traits and aggressive personality usually mean he will fall behind and get himself killed, making him another feast-or-famine type leader.
Past Performance: Caesar has achieved a high level of success thus far in AI Survivor. In Season One, he successfully managed to murder De Gaulle, but instead of pausing for breath, immediately declared war on a stronger and more advanced Pericles. He did not make it out alive. This was the first of a series of displays of Caesar's biggest weakness: he is bad at building an economy. Like, really bad. In Season Two, Caesar was able to come out on top of an extremely close game, before floundering in the playoffs in an unremarkable performance. Season Three was Caesar's big year, as he won an opening "game of death" and displayed his ideal game, using praetorians to outmuscle Pericles early in the game (vengeance for Season One?), fighting a series of wars to annex Ethiopia, and preventing Elizabeth;s cultural win in an extremely climactic showdown. He was also able to win his playoff game in similar snowball fashion, before finally placing third in the championship. In Season Four, Caesar was able to repeat the magic in his opening game, but performed miserably in his playoff game, stuck in a jungle heavy start and eliminated by Charlemagne. Overall, Caesar is another leader likely to either win a game or perform miserably, with a second-place finish yet to occur. Thus far, with four victories and 11 kills to his name, Caesar has been one of the leaders most likely to feast rather than starve.
Augustus of Rome
Traits: Imperialistic, Industrious
Starting Techs: Fishing, Mining
Peace Weight: 8
Past Finishes: 1 Second Place Finish
Best Finish: Season One Playoffs
Total Kills: 0
Overall Power Ranking: 2 points, tied 40th place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 0 kills
Personality: Augustus is one of the less noteworthy AIs in the game. His traits are Imperialistic and Industrious, which is a combination seriously lacking in synergy: Imperialistic wants you to get out there and claim the map, while Industrious wants to build wonders instead of settlers. He also gets the uber-swordsmen in praetorians and the less powerful forum, though the increased great people points do synergise with Industrious wonders. Lastly, Augustus starts with Fishing and Mining, a generally poor pair unless he starts on the coast. Augustus has a personality full of synergies and anti-synergies. To start with his synergies, the most notable thing about the Roman Emperor is his love of wonders (8/10), which works well with Industrious. He also gets the forum, which isn't fantastic but does allow him to generate more great people with those wonders. Lastly, his low aggression rating (4.6/10) means he is generally in a position where tying up his cities on large projects isn't a total disaster. However, because of that low aggression rating, Augustus typically doesn't make use of the biggest reason to play the Romans: Praetorians. Sure, they can stabilise a defence if he's attacked early, but Augustus is pretty unlikely to go on the offensive. He tends to ignore the Imperialistic half of his trait combination, and Augustus is unlikely to claim the lion's share on the map. Other than that, Augustus' numbers are in about the middle of the scale, and he has production and military flavours. He's a generally run-of-the-mill AI with a particular penchant for wonders. Augustus has a strong and mediocre trait, and a strong and mediocre unique item. Unfortunately, he focuses on the wrong half of both.
Past Performance: Augustus has been less than successful in past years of AI Survivor. He tends not to settle very much of the map despite being Imperialistic, and generally sits in the corner not doing much until someone stronger comes along and bops him, as in Seasons Two (Roosevelt), Three (Stalin) and Four (Huayna Capac). The exception to this rule was in Season One Game Five, the only time Augustus was able to use praetorians to full effect. In that game, he first used them to stabilise an attack from Ragnar, then counterattack when the Viking leader foolishly returned for round two. From there, Augustus was able to coast to second place using his incorporated Viking lands, but it wasn't a dominant showing, merely a competent one, and he was immediately torn apart in the playoffs for what is still the second fastest elimination as of Season Four (Turn 106). Suffice to say, Augustus has not been particularly impressive thus far, and he will have an uphill battle to make something of himself this season.
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: Season Two Championship Game
Total Kills: 7
Overall Power Ranking: 18 points, 9th place (out of 52 leaders)
Season Five Performance: 1 Second Place Finish, 2 kills
Personality: Mao Zedong has been surprisingly successful at AI Survivor despite working with relatively few resources. His trait combination is simply bad, with the terrible Protective trait combined together with the AI's poor handling of the Expansive trait. Mao does get to take advantage of the Chinese civilization though, with the best starting techs in the game (Agriculture/Mining) and the strong Cho-Ko-Nu unique crossbow. Mao's AI personality is best known for placing very little emphasis on religion. He doesn't gain much of a benefit from shared religion and attaches little penalty to practicing a different faith. Mao will almost never demand that someone convert to his religion (0/10) but he will make civics-based demands on a frequent basis (10/10). Most of Mao's ratings are fairly average aside from his hefty emphasis on espionage spending (8/10). He's only average in terms of aggression but has a low peace weight and will happily plot war at "Pleased" relations. Mao's middle-of-the-road ratings reflect a leader who often seems to lurk under the radar until catching others by surprise.
Past Performance: Mao Zedong has been a sneaky-good AI leader, reaching the playoffs in three out of four seasons and making it to the championship game at the end of Season Two. He only has a single first place finish to his name but has stuck around to score a series of runner-up finishes. Mao's single best result was his opening round match in Season One, where he won a Diplomatic victory at the ridiculously late date of Turn 433. That's one of the slowest-finishing games that we've ever had and it reflected the fact that Mao isn't much of a researcher. He managed to sneak into the championship the next season with a pair of runner-up finishes, only to find that he couldn't keep pace with Huayna Capac and Pacal and Cyrus in the finals. Mao then suckered everyone into overrating him in Season Three, when he was heavily favored to win his opening round match and instead found himself taken out by Hannibal. Mao isn't one of the best leaders but he's good at hanging around and finding a way to make something out of nothing.
Here's what the community was thinking based on the prediction contest before the game took place:
Playoff Two was another game with a clear favorite as Julius Caesar emerged as the victory choice for close to have of the submitted entries. Willem, Suryavarman, and Mao also received a decent amount of support while almost no one was backing Asoka or Augustus. The Runner Up category had a close three-way split between Suryavarman, Mao, and Caesar with all of them polling around 20-30% of the submissions. There seemed to be a general sense that Willem would either win the game or be eliminated and therefore wasn't likely to find himself in the second place spot. The First to Die category unsurprisingly had Asoka as a strong favorite, although perhaps by less than expected with "only" a little over half of the community picking him. And for the victory condition, this was another game where Domination proved to be more popular than Spaceship with about half again as many submissions.
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!
Mousey_Commander: Asoka is going to get eaten and Augustus doesn't have the iron or the skill to save his high peace weight buddy. Mao has a good backline, good resources, and is likely to benefit most from Asoka's early death. Julius is going to benefit from bullying Augustus and Willem but ultimately will be bogged down by the split directions.
ZincAlloy: Everyone, say hello to double Rome! And then say goodbye, because they're basically going to war immediately. It'll be Julius who unites the Eastern and Western empires, and then takes that combined strength to conquer the world. The only leader with a chance of stopping the Roman legions is Willem, but what's this? Willem left all his rifles back in the opening round? That's fine, you can just research some more, right Willem? Right? Riiiiiight? Oh.
Ochotona: It seems crazy but I like Asoka in this one. I expect Mao to be squeezed between culture from creativity on his left and religion on his right, hamstringing him. And I expect Julius's economy to suck a la Boudica game 6. Ultimately I'm thinking Asoka can stand up to their pressure and whizz to a culture victory.
Bobchillingworth: I'm confident that the two high-peaceweight civs are dooomed; even if the evil leaders get embroiled in stupid early wars with each other, I don't think either Asoka or Augustus will reach key military techs quickly enough to achieve lasting security. Beyond that though, I only marginally prefer Sury and Julius's positions over their fellow ne'er-do-wells, primarily because Mao will probably be squeezed and Willem's land is short on luxuries and rivers. If this season has demonstrated anything, it's that the evil civs are easily driven mad by border overlap, which occurs quickly when large portions of the map are ice and tundra. Anyone expecting an early dogpile on India or Good Rome will probably be disappointed, as the creative leaders cheese off their neighbors.
nabaxo: This is a rough picking contest. So many killers.
SpamBot: There are three two man "peaceweight teams" in this match. Mao and Suryavarman are Team 1, Willem and Julius are Team 4, and Asoka and Augustus are Team 8. Of these "teams", Team 4 are the most likely to infight. Team 1 are in position to dogpile upon this weakness by teaming up with Julius against Willem. Of course, maybe Mao and Julius and Suryavarman will all fight amongs each other, bringing all of them down and possibly killing Willem in the process, thus allowing Asoka to win by culture. But I gotta go with mah boy Mao.
Eauxps I. Fourgott: AD AETURNUM! AVE CAESAR! With the two greatest leaders in Roman history, aided by squadrons of elite Praetorian guards, there is nothing to stop Rome from ruling the entire civilized world! (Ignore the reports of strange barbarians beyond the ice fields. They are none of our concern.)
Willem: It is going to be a low peaceweight game filled with strife. I am thinking Sury and Willem are going to settle towards each other and will be involved in early conflict. That is bad for Willem who already has a pretty barren starting position. Sury is also going to be bogged down by this early war. Instead Mao is the one who is going to profit from the war between his neighbors, gobble up some extra space via expansion, and become strong enough to seek and win conflict with Asoka, perhaps helped by Julius, who has a lot of land to expand into and iron. Julius is either going to snow ball off of a successful war with Asoka or Augustus, and mop up Willem at some point. Mao will go to war with Sury at some point and win, but will be faced by a runaway Julius by then. Late-tish, domination win by Julius, with medium to many wars. Only FTD is a real tough one for me, but I am going with Asoka. Yet I really am fearing Willem won't last long.
ljubljana: culture is almost never the right way to play the probabilities...but we do have two contenders in this game, and space and domination seem roughly evenly likely if not, so i guess i might as well? also i'm tired of rooting against willem and being disappointed, so i think i'll try rooting for willem and being disappointed
Wyatan: I'll go with a very specific prediction: Sullla's shown the Iron spot that Julius Caesar'll need to grab for Praetorians. Well, based on his initial scouts deployment, I think he'll go straight for it (river + FP), which should make his supporters very happy. But here's the thing: he can't see the Iron, he can't see the Horses. To him, that's a resourceless spot, picked because there's nothing better in range. And then... his scouts will find the resource cluster to the north: Stone + Cows + Spice + Dyes. At which point he'll redirect his settler to it, like Asoka did in his opening round. So not only will he found a very late second city, he'll actively send his settler away from his only Iron! Hope I'm right, as that should make for some pretty lively chat reactions! :D
dreamyeyed: Asoka doesn't have copper and he starts close to Mao who has some right next to his capital. I doubt he'll survive long enough to get access to iron, especially if Caesar also decides to join the party. But Mao being Mao, I'm sure that he will once again pull off some ridiculously stupid move and give away a certain victory. Caesar should be able to conquer East Rome fairly easily, but where will he go after that? Augustus's territory doesn't look very good, so the snowball will likely stop right there. There are just not enough useful idiots in this game. As for the western coast, I like both of the leaders, but Willem looks like he'll have massive happiness problems with a single gold mine as his only happiness resource. Suryavarman's start looks much better, but unfortunately for him the only elephants are on the other side of the continent so he may never get his ballista elephants.
Vunterslaush: The Roman orgy will be a one-sided slaughter with augustus becoming FTD. Mao will get squeezed early by creative sury & willem plus Asoka w/ an early henge. Sury has no ivory and no early happy resources - no thanks. Julius will dominate with willem riding coattails.
smithy: Things which I think will happen but haven't dared go for: Willem FTD cos JC really doesn't like culture in his face and Sury has nothing better to do. Mao for a runaway win after he steamrollers through Asoka and then anyone else who looks at him funny. Pre T300 win cos this lot are all pretty competent. Things which will probably happen but i'm pretending won't: Willem to be just fine and win again cos he's getting good at this. AC to be scoreboard leader for most of the game due to lots of empty space and GLH. Season5 things: Asoka starts fishing-food techs, leaving the religions to go all over the place (everyone gets early myst for once). Early wars are all started due to border tension leaving Willy & Sury in trouble early. Augustus wins as noone notices he is there all game. 6 wars total as noone ever stops anymore. My lame safe predictions: JC to win with praets and he has ALL the heffalumps. RU Mao as he's generally cool with 2nd. FTD? you know who already.
Commodore: I really wanted to cheer for Mao, but lacking metal I feel like his time is finally up. Julius will prove who's the greatest of the Julio-Claudians by rolling up either Mao or Willem early, moving on to an eventual win, but Asoka will be defended by Augustus long enough to get rifling, probably managing to get in second.
eyser24: If Julius's western neighbor was not Willem I would probably choose him to win, but because Willem is creative I am very nervous that he will not get that iron that is near him. If Willem settles basically anywhere to the east, it seems really bad for Rome. The combination of Julius refusing to tech mysticism until turn 70, and Willem's culture and good expansion will overwhelm his cities and permanently cripple him, especially if he loses the iron for any length of time. I am choosing Mao to win because he has guaranteed copper, a gold nearby, and most importantly Asoka to the east, thus he will be the most likely beneficiary from Asoka's (inevitable) death. He did good with a bad start this season, here he has a good start and someone easy to wipe out closer to him than anyone else. My choice for second place was tough but its either Sury or Augustus, and I am ultimately choosing Sury. I am most worried about Augustus not getting that copper quickly and being really susceptible to Julius, and while he has proved he can really expand quickly and build wonders and create a real empire, I just see him being attacked eventually even if not early on, and eventually being overwhelmed. Sury is the wildcard to me, as I think he is more likely to go after Willem and become strong, but Sury could also attack Mao and completely ruin my predictions, or balloon himself to first place.
Bernn: You really don't want to be without copper in a game with Caesar and Suryavarman around, and especially not if you neighbor them. I don't think Asoka and Willem will get a chance to flex their economic and cultural muscles this game because of it - they're simply way too vulnerable to early attacks and in a weak position diplomatically. I don't like Mao's starting position at all and I think he'll be a minor power at best this game, leaving Suryavarman and Caesar as the real contenders to me. Between the two, I'm going with Sury. He's a little less prone to crashing his economy than Caesar and Creative does helps enormously in the early stages of the game. Willem is going to get crushed by the Khmer very early (sub T100!) and Sury will smoothly cruise to a win off his Dutch conquests.
Strong Like Ox: *Long pause* No.