Before anything else, we had to select the AI leaders for our first game. I used a random number generator to pull out six numbers between 1 and 52, and then matched them up with the AI leaders in alphabetical order. That produced the following draw. (All information on AI personalities comes from this strategy article at CivFanatics, kudos to the writers for excellent work!)
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. The Celts also have Mysticism and Hunting starting techs, although starting techs don't matter that much for Deity AIs since they all begin with Wheel, Agriculture, Hunting, and Archery. 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.
Napoleon is Organized and Charismatic for traits, with the amazing Musketeer unique unit and the completely not-amazing Salon unique building by virtue of being France. He is one of the most aggressive leaders in the entire game, with a heavy military emphasis and an aggression rating of 9.1 out of 10! Napoleon is also one of the most likely leaders in the game to demand tribute and demand civic changes. He doesn't care about religion though, and he's one of the easiest AIs to keep on good terms when having a different faith. Nevertheless, Napoleon is a scary leader. He builds tons of units and he isn't afraid to use them. Only a couple of leaders are more likely to go to war.
Peter is Expansive and Philosophical in Civ4, with the Cossack and Research Institute as befitting his Russian civ. Despite his peaceful traits, Peter is actually a fairly aggressive leader, with an 8/10 aggression rating. He's very willing to go to war with his enemies. At the same time, however, Peter also rarely makes demands of other civs, and has science and growth flavors for his AI programming. It's all kind of a weird package. Peter AI could focus on peaceful teching, or he could just as easily go into a murderous rage and spend the whole game fighting his neighbors. Impossible to tell.
Ramesses has Spiritual and Industrious traits, the ones that used to belong to Gandhi in pre-expansion days. He has the good fortune to be playing as Egypt, with the strong War Chariot and Obelisk unique stuff. Unlike the rest of this bunch, Ramesses has a low aggression rating at 3.7 out of 10. His most prominent claim to fame is a very heavy emphasis on wonders, with a 10/10 rating for wonder construction and a culture emphasis to boot. Expect Ramesses to do a lot of wonder-whoring, that's what he's known for. He also places a lot of focus on religion as well, with a giant bonus for shared faith. How he'll do with this violent field of competitors is anyone's guess, probably the game winner or first one eliminated with little in between.
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.
Finally we have Tokugawa for the last leader, 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.
Overall, it's a violent group of leaders here. Everyone except for Ramesses is well above average in terms of aggression. Furthermore, with two civs that emphasize religion in the Celts and the Egyptians, there's a strong probability that the world will be divided into competing faiths and prompt even more conflict. This game hasn't even begun yet, and I can't wait to see the blood start flowing!
For anyone wondering how this works, I generate a series of random maps with all of the settings mentioned on the introduction page. I keep rolling them until I find one that looks relatively fair to the AI leaders, no vast empty stretches for one leader or anything like that. Once there's a map that I'm happy with, I move my civ off into the ice and block it off with peak tiles. I usually have to sink some land into the ocean to balance out the lack of the player's starting area. This is a bit arbitrary and perhaps not completely fair, but it should be close enough. From there, it's easy to see the entire map through the use of debug mode in complete safety. I make sure to contact each AI civ and then set them to a permanent Friendly diplomatic rating in the Worldbuilder. (Yes, you can manipute AI diplo attitudes in the Worldbuilder too.) Use debug mode to toss in some Great Spies for permanent Demographics bar graphs, and everything is set. Then it just remains to sit back and watch the carnage unfold.
The AI always fills up the map quickly on Deity, since they start with 4 archers, 2 scouts, 1 worker, and 2 settlers. On this particular map, Peter drew the most isolated start in the north, and that was exacerbated when he sent his second city south while several of his neighbors expanded in the opposite direction. Suryavarman and Ramesses both settled almost on top of one another! Poor Sury drew the short stick in terms of capitals, getting the dreaded plains cattle + floodplains for his food resources. I wondered how much that would hurt the AI, with their massive growth bonuses on Deity. (By the way, notice the AI building settlers with no improved tiles at size 2? Get used to more insanity along those lines.)
Brennus founded Buddhism early on in his second city, and Ramesses founded Hinduism shortly thereafter. This was very bad news for Suryavarman, as the Hindu holy city popped up a mere 4 tiles away from his own city, ensuring very heavy overlap between religious culture and Creative culture. Meanwhile, Sury's third city shared a border with the Buddhism holy city on the other side of his territory! This was not the start I expected for poor Suryavarman.
Peter had stone located at his capital, and he turned that into the Great Wall, which might have even helped him given all the barbarians running around in the north. Peter then completed the Pyramids some time later using that same stone. All these wonders slowed his expansion, but as a Philosophical civ with the Pyramids, that meant good things for the future. Peter looked to be an early favorite for top dog. Ramesses would also go on to found Judaism, which would end up getting buried since he already had Hinduism for his state religion. The Celtic Buddhism and Egyptian Hinduism appeared to be this game's main religious pairing.
All of the action still seemed to be happening in the center of the map. Suryavarman and Brennus both went for a city location right on their border, both with settlers moving into position, and Sury won that race by a single turn. He actually settled on top of a gold resource, heh. A little bit later on Turn 50, the Egyptian city of Memphis completed Stonehenge, one turn before Suryavarman was set to finish it in his capital! Poor Sury. That added even more cultural pressure to their border. At least Suryavarman was expanding; he was still the first to 6 cities by a wide margin despite missing out on Stonehenge. Ramesses and Tokugawa were still stuck on three apiece, Ramesses with his wonder building, and Tokugawa doing... whatever.
By Turn 65, Brennus had lucked himself into a strong diplomatic position. Buddhism spread naturally to the cities of his surrounding neighbors. First Tokugawa, then Suryavarman, then Peter all converted to Buddhism. This was very bad news for Ramesses, who found himself the only practitioner of a hated religion and the "worst enemy" of half the planet. Brennus even sent a missionary all the way over to Napoleon and converted him to the Buddhist alliance too! On top of that, Ramesses also had the lowest power out of all the AIs by a wide margin. I expected that it wouldn't be long before someone declared war on him. And I wasn't wrong, although the aggressor wasn't quite what I was expecting:
Tokugawa?! AI intelligence at its finest. His axes and chariots posed no threat to Memphis and its 60% cultural defenses, not that Toku could have held a city that far away from his core anyway. Memphis was a choice prize to control for someone though, as it contained Stonehenge and the Hindu Shrine, which Ramesses had built with his Stonehenge Great Prophet. Tokugawa still attacked anyway, with his entire stack dying without killing even a single unit. Bring some catapults next time! Tokugawa did build the Great Lighthouse in his coastal capital, and his shared Buddhist faith warmed up relations enough with some of the other AIs to sign Open Borders. That said, Toku was still clearly the weak dog in the field, with little territory and an army that just got crushed.
Suryavarman was the next one to take a shot at defeating Ramesses, declaring war on Turn 88 against his neighbor. Sury was kind of running away with the game up to this point, far out in front in score and with way more cities than anyone else. He'd also just finished Hanging Gardens, and was in the process of building the Mausoleum. Unfortunately for the Khmer, they still didn't have Construction tech, and that meant that this attack went precisely nowhere, more units suiciding against massive cultural defenses. Ramesses then turned around and suicided his own units against Suryavarman's own border city. The shortcomings of the tactical AI were really on display here.
Ramesses was holding out OK for a while... and then Peter entered the war as well. See all those units above? Those are stacks of swords and axes. Peter was bringing about 25 units in from the north, while Suryavarman continued to send in his own swords from the east. Oh, and then this happened:
Napoleon came to play too. The AI feeding frenzy was on, as they turned to attack the weakest member of their fraternity. Isolated diplomatic and religious position + weakest power in the game = very bad results. I did not envy Ramesses, let me tell you. He actually fought this off well, with more terrible slaughter against the city defenses of Memphis, but Construction tech was finally coming down the pipeline for the other civs. Once catapults were on the field, it was only a matter of time until those defenses went down, and then Ramesses would start losing cities for sure. It was almost like watching an unsuccessful Always War game here, turtling up and awaiting the grim finale.
Memphis finally fell on Turn 111, after its defenses had been bombarded all the way down to zero. Suryavarman was the one to pick up the kill, giving him the aforementioned Hindu shrine and the not-really-useful-for-Creative-civ Stonehenge. Ramesses had recognized the danger he was in and teched to Feudalism, but Suryavarman countered by using the ivory at his capital to build ballista elephants. And with three huge civs invading at the gates, Ramesses continued to have two of his four cities build wonders. Yep, I'm sure the Apostolic Palace and Hagia Sophia will come in handy there, bud. Once catapults could get over to these cities, it would only be a matter of time for poor Egypt.
On the other side of the world, Tokugawa declared war on Brennus in a war that was heavy on fighting but low on results. I kept an eye on that bloodbath, without seeing too much of interest taking place.
Someone really likes his elephants.
Suryavarman kept chewing his way across Egypt, seemingly without breaking a sweat. Ramesses' longbows were absolutely no match for the Khmer wave of blue death. Thebes fell on Turn 118, Peter captured Elephantine on Turn 121, Alexandria went to Suryavarman on Turn 128, and the final city of Heliopolis, defended by three longbows and seven workers, collapsed on Turn 132. Napoleon took the last city, and amusingly enough, Ramesses built the Jewish Shrine in there the turn before he died. How considerate of him.
Ramesses finished in last place. Hey, I wrote before the game started that he would be the winner or the first eliminated, not a bad prediction! With the first leader removed from the game, it was time to pull back and assess the overall picture. This was looking good for Suryavarman, not so good for everyone else.
There was no sugarcoating the fact that Suryavarman was destroying the competition at this point. He had 12 cities, and the next closest was Peter with 8 cities. Sury was the top dog on the bar graphs in Food, Production, Power, and GNP. He also had a boatload of wonders, with the Mausoleum likely being the most important of the bunch. It seemed fair at this point to state that everyone else was playing for that second place spot, since Suryavarman seemed a near certainty to walk away with the victory.
After centuries of war, the first Japanese city finally fell to Brennus. He'd been attacking against longbows in a city on a hill for ages, and finally had better luck here against Osaka. Brennus was about to finish Machinery tech and get some maces on the field, and I wondered if that would be enough to dig out those longbows finally. Tokugawa's days were clearly numbered, it was merely a matter of how long he survived. (By the way, Toku was the one who started this war. He's definitely got a terrible AI personality from a performance standpoint.)
While Brennus slowly devoured Tokugawa, Suryavarman popped a Mausoleum-fueled Golden Age and proceeded to clean up wonders left and right. He added Notre Dame, University of Sankore, the free Great Artist at Music tech, the free Great Merchant at Economics tech, and cleared a path to Liberalism. Suryavarman did miss out on the Hagia Sophia, that one going to Brennus, which I'm sure was a cause of great concern. Shortly before Turn 150, Napoleon decided to declare war on Peter. What the heck?! Napoleon seemed to get the worse of that, losing a big stack without achieving anything at all, and Peter popped his own Golden Age to counter. But it all felt like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Hello guys, remember Suryavarman? He's kind of running away with the game here!
Brennus finished the job against Tokugawa on Turn 157, and we were down to the final four leaders. As badly as Toku had played, he did manage to avoid being the first leader killed, which was better than I expected. With the land that Brennus absorbed from that conquest, it was now fairly close between Brennus and Peter for the coveted second place position. Napoleon was definitely in fourth place in the major categories, a step back of the other two. Peter and Napoleon actually ended their war the same turn that Tokugawa died, and we had worldwide peace for the first time in centuries. I wondered whether Suryavarman would choose to attack someone again; Peter's continued adherance to Hinduism made him a vulnerable target.
What followed was a long period of peaceful building between these civs. Because they had gone to war together against Ramesses, they had mostly built up "mutual military struggle" bonuses with one another, resulting in a lot of Friendly faces staring back at one another. Peter even converted back to Buddhism and joined the big happy family. Brennus somehow managed to win the Liberalism race, with Suryavarman apparently ignoring the tech completely, but Sury researched Nationalism and built the Taj Mahal for another Mausoleum-powered Golden Age. He later added the Spiral Minaret (Suryavarman had all of the monk economy trio), the Statue of Liberty, and the Kremlin too. I worried that the game was going to be nothing more than clicking next turn 100 times until someone won.
Peter broke the tedium by declaring war on Napoleon. This massive stack of roughly 60 units went after one of the border cities in former Egyptian territory. Of course Heliopolis had a large defensive force itself, but it was still no match for the attackers. It fell on Turn 192, in a gigantic confrontation that produced Great Generals on both sides. Of course, after capture the city was completely surrounded by Khmer culture and was utterly useless to Peter despite all of the effort he expended. It quickly starved down to size 1, unable to work even a single tile. Peter would later fire off a Great Artist culture bomb, which gained him... exactly one tile. This had clearly been a war worth fighting.
Then on Turn 198, a potentially huge diplomatic development appeared: Suryavarman converted to Hinduism! This broke the Buddhist ties of love that had been getting passed around for ages. Would he decide to turn on one of his neighbors? It wasn't going to be pretty if he did, given the masses of rifles and cavalry that Suryavarman had staging in his territory. This was the question that I was pondering as we hit Turn 200.
Suryavarman researched one of those bizarre AI paths through the tech tree, rushing for Medicine tech (?!) for some reason while ignoring the Assembly Line and Railroads paths. I swear they do the weirdest stuff with their tech choices. Peter and Napoleon signed peace, and nothing happened for dozens of turns on end. Suryavarman teched his way into the Modern Age, claiming every single "first to" bonus on the tree and cleaning up every wonder imaginable. I assumed that the game would end in this fashion, with Sury launching his spaceship and nothing else happening.
Fortunately, I was wrong. I was very, very wrong about an uneventful finish.
On Turn 262, Suryavarman declared war on Napoleon. This triggered the defensive pact that Napoleon had with Brennus, bringing him into the war as well. Sury had about half of the Modern Age techs completed at this point, and he had crazy numbers of tanks, infantry, artillery, jet fighters, and bombers all over the place. Check out that screenshot above: that's a mass drop of two dozen PARATROOPERS outside Orleans. Have you ever seen anything like that before? It actually turned the minimap blue, overriding the purple French culture, there were so many units there. As for Napoleon, he was still using rifles and cavs and cannons, which would have been great 50 turns earlier, but were horribly outdated now. This looked like it was going to be a painful smackdown unless Brennus could provide from assistance from the other direction.
Orleans fell the first turn, allowing this Stack of Doom to push deeper into French territory:
Now this is true Stack of Doom! There are nearly 100 units on that tile east of the peak, split between all sorts of modern era weaponry. I saw Napoleon's own main stack elsewhere in his territory, which had about 15 cavalry in it. Ummm... that would be sad face time for poor Napoleon. Furthermore, highlighting this stack doesn't even take into account the dozens of air units, jet fighters and bombers, who were destroying the French landscape with each passing turn. A Deity AI with a massive tech lead can be a truly terrifying sight to behold. The Power graph showed the full extent of the situation:
Bleak news for Napoleon. He lost half his power in the first turn of the war, Suryavarman lost maybe 5 percent. I kept an eye on the eastern front for now, looking to see if Brennus was able to achieve anything, but he mostly seemed content to huddle within his own territory. I wondered how long that would keep him safe from the incredible Khmer death machine. By the way, you guys really have to watch a Deity AI mass paradrop units from the sky in between turns, it's amazing to watch them all paradropping from the skies to surround targets. I've never seen that before in all my thousands of hours with this game. What a novel way to take out a rival. (Incidentally, I needed to merge in TWELVE Great Spies to get these graphs with Suryavarman. He, uh, had a lot of EP. )
By Turn 269, Napoleon was on death's door. His final city had a worker for defense, the units inside having all been killed by gunships (which can't capture cities). More paratroopers were raining down from the skies to seal the deal next turn. It was frightening the way that Suryavarman was taking these cities, and then merging in Mining Inc. executives in every single one on the exact same turn. He was 1 turning a military unit in every city on every turn with all that production plus the Deity cost discounts. What about Brennus though, how was he faring?
One city already down, and that 100 unit Stack of Doom en route next to the Celtic capital. No rescue likely to happen here! Suryavarman was getting dangerously close to achieving Domination, once that French territory came out of resistance. He would surely win the game by taking out Brennus as well. In fact, it wasn't going to be much longer before Sury's attack tore through Brennus enough for Peter to rise up into second place!
However, that did not take place because Suryavarman called a United Nations vote, and won a Diplomatic victory on the very next turn:
Napoleon, of course, did not live to see this election, having died on the interturn. What a brutal world out there. And what an amazing finish to boot. Suryavarman couldn't have won the game without the help of Peter in this election, who pushed him over the top. (Plus you can't win a Diplomatic victory in Beyond the Sword unless another leader votes for you.) However, if Peter had simply sat back and done nothing, then Suryavarman would have dealt enough damage to Brennus to pull Peter into second place, and on to the next round of competition. Peter voted himself out of the tournament! Folks, you can't make this stuff up.
Here's a final picture of Suryavarman's core cities. Memphis and Thebes were now deep within Khmer territory.
And the ending turn Demographics from Sury's perspective. Those Production and Soldier Count numbers are just disgusting.
Thus with one game in the books, it's Suryavarman moving on in first place, and Brennus getting through as a rather lucky runner up. Peter will have to wait and hope for a wildcard spot, although I don't think he did enough in this game to merit one. We'll see what the other games will bring. Suryavarman absolutely lived up to his reputation as a top leader in this game. His push for fast expansion took him out to an early lead from which he never really looked back. This was one case where the AI played things in much the same fashion as a human would. Stay turned for Game #2 coming soon!