This will be the second playoff game, with another returning field of champions and runner ups from the opening round of games. This particular game has two of the biggest economic favorites to win the whole competition, a duel between Chinese leaders from ancient and modern history, one of the most famous military conquerors that the world has even seen, and the biggest upset winner from the first batch of games. Let's meet the field.
Long ago I dubbed Mansa Musa as having the "winning" AI personality, and he did nothing to disprove that logic in his opening match. Mansa emerged as our winner from Game Two, starting out relatively small but eventually engulfing over half of the world. He showed himself willing to take over territory from another economic AI in the form of Willem, then faced down Mehmed in a lategame showdown for overall supremacy. If there's one weakness to the Mansa AI, it's that he can often prove to be too peaceful for his own good. The aggressive Mansa was on display in Game Two, and it was a terrifying sight. Mansa Musa has one of the game's best trait pairings in the form of Financial and Spiritual, along with a very strong Malinese civ that brings the Skirmisher and Mint. All of the AIs love to build archers, and the skirmisher makes Mali's version far superior. Mansa the AI has gold and religious flavors for research, and he'll found his own religion more often than you might think. Mansa is extremely pacifistic as a leader, with an aggression rating of only 1.6 out of 10. Only Lincoln and Gandhi are more peaceful. Unlike Gandhi, Mansa has an average rating for unit emphasis (4/10), and this is one reason why he tends to perform better. Mansa loves to trade with anyone and everyone, and he's rated extremely high on the peace weight scale as a "Good" leader. Oddly, Mansa will declare war at "Pleased" relations, the opposite of what you would expect. Mansa's economic might should make him a contender here even if he doesn't have much land, and if he does, the game is probably over.
Lincoln's victory in Game Five was the most unexpected result of the initial round. Almost everyone in our prediction contest had Ragnar to take that one, and we were all collectively shocked when Lincoln instead came out of left field and won via spaceship. The Great Emancipator managed to conquer a lot of territory from Kublai Khan, and then eventually out-teched the rest of the surviving field in an extremely peaceful conclusion. We should start to find out here whether Lincoln is a legit contender or simply someone who got lucky at the right time. Lincoln brings Charismatic and Philosophical traits, a below average pairing with modest economic benefit. His American civilization is one of the worst in the game, with the impossibly late Navy SEAL and Mall unique items. Lincoln AI has science and growth flavors, a very unorthodox combination. Very few AIs have the science flavor for their research. Lincoln AI is even more pacifistic than Mansa Musa, with an aggression rating of only 0.8 out of 10. Don't expect much conflict if they start next to each other! Lincoln is otherwise very average across the board. He doesn't care too much about religion, and he also gets rated very high on the peace weight scale as a "Good" leader. I'm curious to see what Lincoln will throw out here in his second game.
If Lincoln was the most unexpected winner from the opening round, then Mao's victory was probably the second most surprising result. Mao emerged from a crowded field as our winner of Game Eight, one of the rare occasions where a leader in the middle of the continent was able to come out on top. Game Eight had a shockingly slow tech pace, and ended about 100 turns after every other game that we've run, with Mao apparently managing the strange circumstances the best. He snowballed off of a conquest of Churchill and never looked back. Mao will have to manage his tech rate better in this game, he won't have the luxury of 430 turns to get his science in order. As an AI, Mao has Expansive and Protective traits, one of the best pairings that included the dreaded Protective. His Chinese civilization employs the Cho-Ko-Nu and the Pavilion uniques. Mao has growth and production flavors, and the unique status of paying less attention to religion than any other leader in the game. Mao AI simply does not care about your faith very much, pro or con. He does heavily emphasize espionage (8/10) and will demand civic changes (10/10) to his favorite civic of State Property. Mao has only an average aggression rating (5.7 out of 10), but he's willing to plot war at "Pleased", and he gets rated near rock bottom on the peace weight scale, as an "Evil" leader. Mao will hate both Mansa and Lincoln with a passion in this game, there's a gaping chasm between the two sides in peace weighting. Expect conflict if Mao borders either of them.
Alexander makes his appearance as the first of our runner up leaders, having played a rather scrappy underdog position in Game Three. Alexander had a poor spot of land in the far north, and he struggled to break free of the corner that fate had dealt him. The solution to that problem was going to war, which Alexander did repeatedly throughout the game. Alexander didn't have much success against Isabella on his own, but he was saved by the intervention of his big sister Boudica, who went on to win the game in dominating fashion. The Greek leader piggybacked his way into the runner up spot, and a position here in the playoffs. Now Alexander will have another chance to make a name for himself. His traits are Aggressive and Philosophical, an odd pairing that doesn't appear to have much in the way of synergy. The Greeks use the Phalanx and Odeon unique items, which are a decent middle of the pack pair. (Greece has atrocious starting techs in the form of Hunting and Fishing, but this doesn't matter for the Deity AIs, who all get four free starting techs.) As an AI, Alexander has military and growth flavors. He is one of the game's top warmongers, with an aggression rating of 8.6 out of 10 and a similar unit emphasis (8/10 score). Alexander has a 2% chance to begin plotting war on every turn, which is tied with the other crazies like Montezuma and Shaka for the highest in the game. He can of course plot war at "Pleased" relations, and Alexader sits on the lowest possible rating in peace weight, dead zero "Demonic Evil" to use a term from Galactic Civ. Alexander will not like Mansa Musa and Lincoln, not one bit. This should make for some interesting gameplay, to say the least.
Then we have Elizabeth, a complete contrast to Alexander and another leader in the mold of Mansa and Lincoln. Elizabeth came in second place in Game Six, but that was somewhat deceptive, as she led in score for most of the game and led in tech for the entirety of the game. Pericles only won the game due to a diplomatic vote in the United Nations; barring that, Elizabeth would have won via spaceship. Elizabeth's economic muscle was also responsible for an extraordinarily fast tech pace in Game Six, where she had mech infantry by Turn 250. In the super-slow tech pace of Game Eight, Mao was still using cuirassiers and muskets at that same date! Elizabeth can research like no one's business when she's left alone to tech in peace. This is due at least in part to her trait pairing of Financial and Philosophical, a pure economic route that works for both cottage and specialist economies. This seems to play well given the insane actions of the AI, where workers will routinely farm over cottages and then re-cottage the same tiles again. The English civilization has two strong unique replacements in the Redcoat and the Stock Exchange. Elizabeth AI uses gold and culture flavors for research. She is also a dedicated pacifist, with an aggression rating of 1.9 out of 10 and a dangerously low unit emphasis rating of 2/10. (For anyone counting, that means we three of the four most peaceful leaders in Civ4, missing only suicidally pacifist Gandhi.) Elizabeth AI likes to ask for help, but otherwise is a good neighbor and makes few demands. She's easy to get along with and makes a great friend. As expected, Elizabeth also has a stratospheric peace weight as a highly "Good" leader. She'll make great friends with Mansa and Lincoln, and she'll be a target of Mao and Alex.
This is the third time we're seeing Qin, after his initial third place finish in Game Three, and then his runner up position in the Wildcard game. He was extremely lucky to survive in the first game after falling as low as two cities at one point, and was largely rescued from death by the efforts of Boudica. Qin performed much better in the Wildcard match, where he won a lengthy series of wars against Washington and held on to second place in an endgame nuclear struggle against Zara Yacob. Now Qin has to face his distant Chinese descendant Mao Zedong in this battle for first place. Since Qin has appeared twice before, I'll try to keep the rest of this section relatively short. Qin has the weak trait pairing of Industrious/Protective, and his Chinese civ uses the Cho-Ko-Nu and Pavilion. He has production and growth flavors for research. Qin AI sits at average numbers in most categories, although he has a bit of a soft spot for wonders (6/10) and he likes to demand civic changes (8/10). His aggression rating is somewhat low at only 3.9 out of 10, but Qin will plot war at "Pleased" relations, and he's another leader rated very low on the peace weight scale as an "Evil" leader. The two Chinese leaders should get along well in this one, due to very similar peace weighting, perhaps we'll see a partnership like the Catherine/Stalin one that emerged in Game Seven.
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Looking at this one in full then, we've got one of the most dramatic differences in peace weight that I can recall to date. Mansa Musa, Lincoln, and Elizabeth are all peaceful leaders with a strong economic focus. Mao, Alexander, and Qin aren't exactly huge warmongers - well, Alexander is pretty crazy, although not the other two! - but they are all rated very low on the peace weight scale and won't much like the other group. This game is shaping up as a clear battle of Good versus Evil. One of these two groups is going to come out on top, either the pacifists by leveraging their far superior economic traits, or the aggressors by striking first and overrunning their enemies. I expect both leaders who advance will come from the same group of leaders; I'd be surprised if we had one from each of the two collections here. Where everyone gets placed randomly on the starting map will be enormously important to the overall outcome.
I found this map after about four or five rerolls, and it needed only minimal tweaks to produce a good setup. Note the two ridiculously long rivers on this map, one in the west and one in the east, unusual stuff there. I was intrigued by the way in which Mansa Musa was placed out there on an island in the west, the exact same spot on the map where he'd proven so successful in his initial game. Was this beneficial or harmful? I honestly wasn't sure. Things were slightly more cramped in the east, but I still thought that all of the AI leaders had good prospects for expansion, including Lincoln if he moved to secure the large amounts of territory to his west. That open area in the west-central portion of the continent would be very important to control. As far as diplomacy was concerned, Lincoln looked to have drawn the short straw amongst the peaceful leaders. He had Alexander and the two Chinese leaders nearby, as opposed to the more isolated positions of Mansa and Elizabeth. He might wind up being the first one on the chopping block. That was dumb luck, of course; I barely even glance at the leaders when rolling maps. Potentially unfortunate for the Americans.
I swear, the AI does the strangest things with its starting Deity settlers. Mansa Musa and Alexander did about what you'd expect, sending their settlers towards the middle of the map. Elizabeth did the opposite, and staked out a claim down in the southern tundra. Not a bad spot for a city, just moving in the wrong direction. Qin sent his settler six tiles away across the desert, taking a very aggressive posture to the northeast of the English. That was either going to work out spectacularly well or equally poorly, one or the other. Nanjing was actually closer to London than it was to Shanghai. Up in the north, Mao and Lincoln were busy settling right on top of one another. What do you think is the over/under on when Mao declares war? Will we make it to Turn 75 before it breaks out?
In terms of research, Mansa Musa was the only one to pursue an immediate religion. None of these leaders had Mysticism as a starting tech, so it wasn't until Turn 14 that a religion appeared. Mansa had oddly gone for Polytheism/Hinduism first, not Buddhism as the AI will usually do. Everyone else had been researching Animal Husbandry and then Bronze Working. Lincoln and Mao were the next ones to go for religion, both simultaneously deciding to chase after Buddhism. I was surprised to see Mao making a play for Meditation tech, given his low focus on religion. In any case, Mao won this competition by a single turn:
Guangzhou became the Buddhist holy city. With free culture in there, along with culture from the Chinese capital, we'd be seeing more border tension between these two in no time. They were already both "Annoyed" with one another, even at this extremely early date.
Third cities were now appearing across the length of the continent. Elizabeth planted her next city a full six tiles northwest of her capital, another spot which would be difficult to defend, but was probably safe due to lack of anyone in that vicinity. The barbs might have been the biggest threat, as they were swarming around the central jungles in large numbers. Mao was getting pillaged quite badly by barbarians in his neighborhood, he was the only one missing a third city because his settler was stuck waiting inside his capital. Eventually it went and founded a spot further to the southwest of Guangzhou.
Mansa Musa was the early score and tech leader. Shocking, I know, hope you were sitting down for that unexpected news. He had founded Hinduism initially, and would now add Judaism from Monotheism tech in the city of Kumbi Saleh. Those city placements were certainly interesting, apparently Mansa liked to put cities on top of resources. Elizabeth was at the other end of the spectrum, struggling to expand and allowing herself to get boxed into a corner by Qin. That definitely should not have been happening, Elizabeth had an excellent capital and tons of land surrounding her. I couldn't figure out what she was doing.
Seriously, what the heck was going on with this empire shape?! Did Elizabeth decide to draw a straight line with a ruler or something? All of her cities were running in this narrow north-south strip for some reason. Canterbury was almost surrounded by Mansa Musa's culture, stealing away his one source of horses. This seemed like a foolish way to irritate a neighboring leader who would otherwise be friendly. Meanwhile, Mansa was hard at work researching Code of Laws to found his third religion of the game. Djenne would become the holy city for both Hinduism and Confucianism when he finished. This western edge of the map was a total mystery to me.
Stonehenge was eventually built in Mao's third city of Chengdu at the surprisingly late date of Turn 59. Mao now had palace culture coming from his capital city, the holy city culture from his second city, and Stonehenge culture from his third city. All of that was pushing on Lincoln's cities along their mutual border. I wondered how much longer that part of the world could stay peaceful. Alexander was similarly quiet for now, building up his territory in the southeast, but that was another ticking time bomb. Alexander did build the Great Wall, for whatever that was worth. He had few barb problems compared to the other leaders.
This confused central part of the map was another patchwork quilt of nations flying different colored flags. (So much jungle to clear!) Qin and Lincoln had both done a reasonably good job of expanding into this region, about as good as I'd expected during the map setup. Mansa was trying to do his best to get out of the northwest corner. Elizabeth had made an attack on the barbarian city of Goth earlier, one that went horribly wrong. She must have had some bad dice rolls, even against barb archers in a city on a hill. I thought her swords would kill at least one defender, instead the barb archers earned promotions. Too bad for her, Elizabeth really could have used another city in the middle of the map. For now, the barbs continued to hold their territory.
This was the overview situation at the end of the landgrab phase. The AI leaders were generally pretty close together in score, with Mao holding a slight edge over the rest of the field. Lincoln had done nearly as well to the northwest, although his land was somewhat weaker in quality. I thought that Qin was also looking to be in a good position in terms of land claimed. Mansa, Elizabeth, and Alexander were all a bit more squeezed when it came to territory. One thing that this map doesn't show was the GNP situation, where Mansa Musa was heads and shoulders above the rest of the field. He might be a serious threat to win via space even if he never claimed more territory than this small handful of cities. Militarily, Alexander's power was spiking, and it seemed like a good bet that he was planning on targeting someone. He actually had open land down in the extreme south just waiting to settle, land that he was ignoring to train more units. How much longer until the first war began?
Lincoln built the Oracle and used it to take Metal Casting tech in the standard AI slingshot. He also looked like the favorite to land the Pyramids, which was under construction in a number of different AI cities. (He would indeed get them later on Turn 86.) Meanwhile, Alexander was moving a good-sized stack around on his border. Someone was about to get attacked; was he planning on moving through Mao's territory, or attacking Mao himself?
Attacking Mao himself, apparently. This caught me by surprise, as I would have thought that similar peace weight and shared religion would make Alexander and Mao friends with each other. Guess not. That's the one thing about the "Evil" leaders, they're generally quite willing to attack one another, while the "Good" leaders only very rarely do so. In any case, Alex went for the city of Macau. While it did have walls, there were only two archers inside. I thought that the city was dead as a doornail, only to find that when I hit the next turn button, there were a bunch of dead Greek units and a single archer still alive with City Garrison III promotion. Wow, the rare case where Protective trait paid off! Mao reinforced the city, Alexander's sneak attack had failed, and now the situation in the east had become much more interesting.
As these events were taking place in the east, Mansa Musa finished Theology research and founded Christianity. He now had the holy city for four of the world's five religions, everything except Buddhism. Slow down there, Mansa! Don't you think you've had enough faiths for one game? Moderation in all things! Don't make Jesus compete with so many other religions!
The war between Alexander and Mao appeared to be at a stalemate for the moment. Alexander tried another attack at one point, which got all of his units killed and generated a Great General for Mao. Not the best tactical move. Lincoln remained in wonder building heaven, using his marble resource to pursue all sorts of questionable stuff like the Temple of Artemis. Qin eventually managed to capture the barb city of Goth, giving him a ninth city in the middle of the jungle. Qin had been slowed down greatly by a lack of luxury resources, which he was finally connecting now that he had Calendar tech. Elizabeth was working on taking Cuman, the final barb city in the far west. Mansa remained the tech leader, even if he was quite a ways below Mao in score. The game was still moving forward, albeit with no cities captured thus far. Construction tech was in the pipeline for many leaders though, and hopefully things would start to become a bit more dynamic.
Mansa also founded Taoism for good measure. I told you before the game started that he liked to found religions more than you might expect! With no true religious AI leaders in this game, Mansa was simply having a field day. Don't be fooled by his low score, his insane research power made Mansa a giant threat to take this via space or culture. If he turned all those religions into temples and cathedrals, it would be tough for anyone to stop a Mansa culture victory.
Whoa, what's this? Lincoln going to war with someone? It's pretty surprising how aggressive Lincoln has been in these two games, he's such an extreme practitioner of non-violence normally. And the target wasn't Mao, it was the other Chinese leader, Qin! This was orange China, not red China. I was actually searching for the American stack in Mao's territory before I realized that Lincoln had declared on Qin instead. This would have been the perfect chance to hit Mao too, when he was distracted by his conflict with Alexander. Go figure. Anyway, Lincoln had Construction tech researched, but he didn't have any catapults with this invasion force, which looked to limit its effectiveness. Wait, scratch that, there was a single catapult moving in with some of the reinforcements behind the main stack. In addition to Lincoln's push, there were also attacks underway by Alexander and Qin, who were still trading units along their respective border. Who was going to be the first one to capture a city?
Much to my surprise, it was Lincoln. Alexander and Mao had been trading large numbers of units to no real purpose, but Lincoln's initial attack proved to be a resounding success. He also finished the Statue of Zeus on the same turn, which these games have revealed to be one of the strongest wonders in the endless internecine struggles between AI leaders. Note as well the location of Shandong to the west - Qin had just finished the Mausoleum in there a few turns earlier. If Lincoln could manage to conquer his way over there, he'd add another powerful tool to his collection of wonders.
While everyone else was researching towards Feudalism and other military techs, Mansa Musa headed down the Aesthetics line and claimed the free Great Artist at Music. He was marching to the beat of his own drummer in this one. On the battlefields, Alexander was sieging the Chinese city of Macau while Mao was sieging the Greek city of Corinth. Alexander's attack ended in failure, redlining a lot of units without managing to break through to the city. Mao had more success:
Down went Corinth. Alexander looked to be in some major trouble here, with five cities remaining to the nine cities of Mao. There were still no cities on the west coast of Greece either, Alexander had room for two more down in the south that he never bothered to add. I've seen the AI settle the most ridiculous iceball locations, it was completely baffling how Alex didn't seem to want a coastline with multiple seafood resources. Maybe he deserved to die with strategy like that.
Alexander managed to recapture Corinth a few turns later, largely because Mao stupidly left only a single defender inside. Poor tactical play from Mao was allowing this war to drag out much longer than it should have lasted. It was the top AI in score against the last place AI in score, this shouldn't be that difficult. In contrast to Mao's fumbling, Lincoln was continuing to enjoy success in his war against Qin:
Add Shandong and the Mausoleum to Lincoln's growing collection of wonders. He'd also finished the Parthenon in his capital, and all of those wonders were driving up the score points for Lincoln. The American leader had now reached second place status on the leaderboard. Further progress in this war was going to be difficult due to the discovery of Feudalism and longbows on the part of Qin, but it had been a very successful conflict already. Lincoln seemed to sense this, and signed peace a few turns later. Smart move on his part. Lincoln could always return later when he had better tech and try to gain more territory from Qin.
Over in the east, Alexander was slowly losing the war against Mao. The city of Argos had been captured earlier, and Sparta was the latest production center to fall at the end of a large battle for both sides. This left Knossus dangerously exposed over in the east, and Alexander was simply losing the war of attrition against his larger northern neighbor. If Mao hadn't foolishly given Corinth away, this would practically be over already. Oh and by the way, yes, Mansa Musa was indeed researching Liberalism off in the west. He would claim it on Turn 133, taking Nationalism with the free tech. That was a very early date for Liberalism in these games, often it lasted centuries longer. Mansa was playing a game unlike any of the other leaders. He had four or five religions in every city, and used Liberalism tech to pop into Free Religion civic for even more culture. I continued to keep an eye on him.
Don't look now, but Elizabeth had quietly risen into second place on the scoreboard. She was doing something similar to Mansa Musa via the peaceful economic route. Elizabeth was lower in GNP and not pursuing religion nearly so much, but she had more land and more population. This might allow her to surpass Mansa's tech down the road in more time. And yes, Mansa Musa did found Islam in another one of his cities, giving him control of six out of seven holy cities. Quite a run on religions in this game from Mansa. Now maybe he could stop researching those religious techs and concentrate on more important stuff.
Finally, the war that I'd been expecting since the beginning of the game, Mao against Lincoln. Once again though, it was Lincoln declaring war and not being declared upon. Wasn't this guy supposed to be a supreme pacifist? Divergent peace weights can do strange things to the game sometimes. This news was a godsend for Alexander, who was fighting desperately to hold onto his capital and looked to be on the verge of exiting the game. Lincoln seemed to be going for the Buddhist holy city of Guangzhou right on their shared border, while Mao continued his siege of the Greek capital. Lincoln struck first in these respective wars, taking the Chinese city and the Buddhist shrine worth 12 gold/turn. Lincoln must have something against the Chinese in this game! That city capture also moved him into first place in score for the moment. Unfortunately for Mao, his attack against the Greek capital of Athens was a failure. I think that it would have succeeded if Lincoln hadn't pulled attention away to the northern border. Alexader looked like he would survive a while longer.
I noticed that Qin's power had been building for a while, and I expected that he would use this opportunity to get back at Lincoln for their earlier war. Instead, Qin struck out to the west:
Quite honestly, this didn't seem like the smartest idea to me. Although Qin was higher in power for the moment, Elizabeth was significantly ahead in tech compared to the orange Chinese. Elizabeth already had knights and maces, while Qin was still relying on horse archers and cho-ko-nus. Once Elizabeth switched her cities over to military production, things were going to be awful tough for Qin. The first attack came against Warwick (the city, not the League of Legends champion!) which had longbows, city walls, and Chichen Itza for defense. Despite what I just wrote, this was a case where quantity was enough to overwhelm quality, and Qin had few difficulties capturing the city. He'd need to do more of that if he expected to get back in this game.
In the larger war to the east, Lincoln and Mao signed peace after a relatively short struggle. They'd been trading maces against one another at a furious rate, but nothing much else seemed to have been accomplished. Just the one city getting captured by Lincoln, albeit the Buddhist holy city with shrine. This would free up Mao to return to his war with Alexander, where neither side had signed a treaty since the war began. And Mansa Musa grabbed the Economics free Great Merchant for himself, now heading up the Constitution/Democracy line for further economic stuff. What a guy.
Qin looked like he was going to go for London next. Instead, he spent almost a dozen turns wandering around in English territory, then walked his stack back into his own borders again. I have no idea what he was doing with those units. Mao slowly reorganized his forces and began his push on Alexander once again. It went as poorly for the Greeks as you would expect:
The fall of Athens was essentially the straw that broke the camel's back for Alexander. (Athens was actually taken by Mao, then recaptured by Alexander in the same turn, leading to an amusing picture where the event logger printed out "Athens has been captured by the Chinese empire!" when it was actually still in Greek hands. Heh.) Alexander had lost all of his strong cities by this point, and there wasn't much fight left in his tired old bones. On the bright side, hey, at least he finally settled those spots on the west coast! A little too late to matter for Alexander though.
Qin made peace with Elizabeth now, their war having accomplished almost nothing of purpose. A single border city had changed hands... except no, the one city captured was given back to Elizabeth in the treaty. What a waste of time. Only the endless war between Alexander and Mao ground on in the east. Mycenae fell to Mao on Turn 175 and Knossus on Turn 181. Alexander had only two cities left in the extreme south. Mao needed to hurry up and finish this war as soon as possible, all of his cities were suffering from extreme war weariness, as many as six or seven unhappy faces each. The minute he concluded the war, his economy was going to skyrocket from all the freed up happiness. Slowly, so slowly, Mao finished off the final remaining cities in the antarctic. Alexander died on Turn 196.
Alexander definitely would not have been my prediction for First to Die in this game. I thought that he had a pretty solid position in the south, one where he could expand out and then pick some smart targets for aggression later on down the road. Unfortunately for Alexander, he once again chose an unsuccessful war against a more powerful neighbor, and this time there was no Boudica around to save him. Even the intervention of Lincoln hadn't been enough to turn the tide in his favor. Once Mao secured a peace treaty with his American rival, it was back to pounding on the Greeks, and that was a conflict that could only have one ending. Since Alexander picked this fight in the first place, I couldn't feel much in the way of sympathy. Enjoy your just karmic desserts, Alex!
The overview map on Turn 200:
The world was at peace for the first time in ages, although it was a fragile peace that seemed unlikely to last. Many of these leaders harbored grudges against one another, in particular Mao was "Furious" with Lincoln for their earlier conflict. In terms of score, Lincoln had a narrow lead over Mao for the moment. I doubted that would last much longer, as Mao had significantly more cities (16 to 11) and they were growing at a tremendous rate now that the war weariness penalty had disappeared. Mao was also still behind in tech for now, but beginning to catch up to his competitors. This was strikingly similar to the last game that Mao had played. Lincoln was also in good shape for the moment, with a boatload of wonders to add extra functionality to his civilization. Elizabeth was smaller in size but stronger in research, and she was approaching the point of passing Mansa Musa in GNP on the bar charts. She was also going to finish the Taj Mahal on the next turn for another free Golden Age. Mansa still had more tech than anyone else, however his small size was finally beginning to catch up to him and slow his research progress. His best chance for a win was going to lay in culture; he'd almost certainly take the game if he tried for it. In a real sense, this game was a race between Mao's huge size and Mansa Musa's incredibly efficient economy. The longer the game lasted, the better it would be for Mao. If I were Mansa Musa, I'd be trying for culture sooner rather than later. As for Qin, he felt like the weakest of these AI leaders, with his strangely shaped empire and fairly weak GNP. Unlike Mao he didn't have a massive empire to fall back upon. Qin would have to make some kind of move soon or he'd simply fall further behind.
Only a few turns later the war horns blared again, and this time it was Elizabeth going to war against Qin. Her main target was the former barb city of Goth, which I unfortunately failed to capture in this screenshot. She took the city in a major battle, one where much of Qin's army was slaughtered. I figured that Qin would do alright for the moment, but sooner or later Elizabeth was finally going to research Rifling tech, and that would be the death knell for Qin's medieval army. Elizabeth already had Democracy, Astronomy, and Scientific Method techs. Her refusal to research military stuff was bordering on the absurd.
Just thought you might like to see inside Mansa Musa's capital city. He had a lot of temples and monasteries, didn't he? Six full sets of each! That was also the Statue of Liberty completing this turn, although its impact was limited given the small number of Malinese cities. When was Mansa going to turn on the culture slider? This game was right there for the taking, just do it man!
Elizabeth tried to attack Qin at Nanjing, only to be beaten back with heavy losses. She was finally researching towards Rifling tech now, after having researched just about everything else possible first. The Lincoln/Mao border remained quiet for the moment, perhaps because Lincoln had reached rifles and Mao still needed several more techs to hit the same generation of military research. These were slow turns despite the one war taking place, little of notice going on. Most leaders were peacefully researching more techs without any cities changing hands. Then Elizabeth and Qin signed peace, which meant even less was taking place. Hmmm. Something interesting happen, please?
I was watching this English city swamped by Malinese culture to see if it would flip. Unfortunately for Mansa, Elizabeth stuffed enough units inside to prevent another revolt from taking place. (One had already occurred earlier.) No culture flip possible. Come on, something else happen please! This was not all that exciting to watch.
Despite his huge size, Mao was suffering terribly from Emancipation unhappiness. He was the only one in the world not running the civic, and he needed to get into it desperately. He also wanted to make use of State Property to benefit from the size of red China, and after finishing Communism research that definitely did seem to help his economy. Then this finally happened:
Oh thank heavens. I'd been about to fall asleep over the past few dozen turns. Now we had some real action on our hands, the top two AIs in score going after one another. They were also the top two in power, with Mao having a bit of an edge on the bar graphs. Lincoln was slightly ahead in military tech since he had cannons, but Mao was quite a bit larger and had more of a production base. Then the very next turn, Qin joined the war against Lincoln. He was not bought into the war, this was Qin acting on his own. Both Chinese leaders, united together against Lincoln! This was going to be fun to watch.
Lincoln made his first move in the far northeast, trying to capture Mao's city of Chongqing. This attack didn't get very far, with Mao hitting it with his own units and tearing the force to pieces. By the way, all of the rifles of both Chinese leaders had the Protective promotions, which must have helped when there were so many rifles walking around. Another push by Lincoln against the border city of Chengdu was similarly repulsed. Mao was having more success, as he was able to capture Seattle up in the icy north. Meanwhile, Qin was doing his best to recapture the cities he had lost to Lincoln so many centuries earlier. Shandong and its Mausoleum passed back into the control of Qin once again, and Xian was next on the agenda. This was medieval units against rifles, and Qin was making progress only by sheer force of numbers. He'd have no chance in a war like this by himself. Mao was smashing forward further to the east, wrestling his way into Philadelphia and opening the road to Washington. Within just a few turns of the war's outbreak, Lincoln was in dire straights:
Very heavy losses on all sides. The two Chinese leaders could afford them better though, on the happy side of the 2 vs 1 situation. Note as well the Mass Media research from Mansa Musa on the scoreboard in the corner. He would surely build the United Nations once that was done, and that would throw a further wildcard situation into this game.
Mao signed peace with Lincoln after about a dozen turns of heavy fighting. He picked up a single city in the peace treaty; can you guess which one it was?
I know it's difficult to guess, take your time trying to find it in the picture. Overall this had been a fairly successful war for Mao. He'd acquired three cities during the course of the fighting and knocked Lincoln down a peg. The American leader had now dropped below Mansa Musa in score. Mao could use the peace to try and make his way to Emancipation civic and get out from under that crushing unhappiness penalty. As for Lincoln, this declaration of war had backfired rather badly. He would need to take advantage of the continuing conflict with Qin to recapture some of the lost ground. Without the help of Mao, Qin was in some serious doodoo here. He would sign peace with Lincoln a little later in exchange for one of his cities (Baoding). That was probably a smart decision by Qin, he'd have lost far more than one city if the war had continued.
The world therefore returned to peace, and the main item of note was the continued countdown until Mansa Musa finished the United Nations. Or at least I thought it was:
This was not your lucky day, Qin Shi Huang. The AIs in this game are very good at smelling out weakness, and Qin was clearly the weakest AI on the board. Elizabeth wanted a chance for revenge from their earlier tiff, and she had the chance to match up redcoats and cannons against Qin's medieval forces. That's always a slaughter, and this case was no different. Haerbin went down, Elizabeth strengthened her grip on second place in score, and the march was on for further Chinese cities. Conquering all of Qin's cities would set up an interesting showdown between Elizabeth and Mao for first place on the leaderboard.
The United Nations was finished on Turn 270, and we immediately held our first election for Secretary General:
Mansa Musa was up against the population leader, Mao Zedong. The peacenik Mansa won this election handily, pulling votes from Elizabeth and Lincoln. Mao had predictably gained the vote of his Chinese partner Qin. For the moment, this was not enough votes for Mansa to take a diplomatic victory. He had 58% of the total votes and would need 62% to take the diplo win. That situation was very much in flux, however, with Elizabeth capturing cities almost on a turn by turn basis from Qin. If Elizabeth could pull a little more population away from Qin, that could swing this election in favor of Mansa. Alternately, Elizabeth could also pass Mao in population if she took enough cities, which would then split the vote and once again rule out a diplo win. Finally, if Mansa Musa were to win by diplomacy, then only one of the Mao/Elizabeth combo could move on to the championship game as the runner-up. The score of those two leaders was going to be EXTREMELY important moving forward. Mao was about 250 points ahead at the moment. Not a huge lead by any means, and nothing guaranteed at this point.
As we waited for the next UN vote, Qin's territory was rapidly disintegrating. He had four cities remaining at the time of the screenshot above, and those few settlements were quickly being taken over. His capital of Shanghai was targeted by a group of redcoats and anti-tanks (LOL! units designed to counter tanks facing maces and crossbows!) and fell on Turn 275:
Elizabeth was now a mere 100 points behind Mao on the scoreboard. This was getting very close! Elizabeth had also founded Mining Inc. and Creative Construction, which she was spreading around her cities (despite the fact that the two conflict with one another). Production wasn't going to be an issue moving forward. Mansa called for the next UN vote, and he chose... Free Speech civic. Well, no one was going to be winning from that one. The civic was not adopted, for the little that this mattered. With the United Nations in hand, Mansa now belatedly turned off his research and began a push for Cultural victory:
At his current pace, he would win sometime around Turn 330. That would likely beat anyone's attempted spaceship, so the real question was whether anyone could manage to take a Diplomatic win through the United Nations before that point. Culture, Diplomatic, and even Spaceship were all theoretically in play for this one. What a fascinating ending to this game, so many different things to consider.
And in addition to all those other victory types, we also had the possibility of Mao winning via Domination, if he could take over all of Lincoln's territory. That would put him pretty close to the limit. This was yet another war started by Lincoln, such a strange performance from him in this game. I didn't understand this one, since Mao was quite a bit higher on the power chart and had so many more cities. (Elizabeth was actually #1 in power now, ha!) Mao hadn't even declared war once this game, always attacked by first Alexander and now Lincoln. Meanwhile, super pacifist Lincoln had warred repeatedly with both Chinese leaders. Go figure. Our third UN vote was for a nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and the AIs actually voted that down! I guess they wanted to be able to use nuclear weapons. No Manhattan Project as yet for the moment.
While all this went on over in the east, Mansa Musa continued his slow countdown to cultural victory. 45 more turns and dropping slowly.
Mao and Lincoln continued to slaughter one another's units off in the east. Neither one seemed to be even remotely close to capturing a city, just lots and lots of blood being spilled in fairly pointless fashion. Mao's advantage in size and production was being canceled out by his war weariness (Lincoln had the Statue of Zeus) and emancipation unhappiness. Mao still hadn't revolted to the civic despite having the techs to do so, the idiot! Elizabeth was dragging her heels as she slowly pushed on the remaining Qin cities. It's truly amazing how they can drag things out even when they have such a massive tech and production lead. Finally and mercifully it was over on Turn 292:
Qin had never quite seemed to get himself established in this match. He'd managed to claim a sizable amount of territory, but it was always stretched out into an awkward shape, and he found himself fighting too many unproductive wars. Diplomatically, Qin was in a situation similar to Lincoln on the other side of the map, mostly bordering leaders who were diametrically opposed in peace weight. Elizabeth and her buddies were never going to like Qin very much, and he certainly didn't make things better by declaring war on his neighbors. In the end, it simply wasn't enough. Congrats for making it this far Qin, but this is as far as you get.
In the aftermath of Qin's exit, Elizabeth and Mao were separated by a mere 20 points on the scoreboard. Twenty points!!! If Mansa were to win by culture, then the runner up was going to be decided by score, and that looked to be a razor thin margin right now. Some of Elizabeth's recent conquests were about to starve down in size from Lincoln's culture, and she also faced the possibility of two other cities on her northern border potentially flipping to Mansa Musa's immense culture. Elizabeth could not afford to lose any population here in such a tight race. The same thing applied to Mao, who needed to try and capture some cities from Lincoln somehow. That looked unlikely at present, but it was certainly possible. Mao had many cities sitting on the verge of starvation from war weariness with Lincoln, and he too couldn't afford to lose any more population. This race for top spot on the leaderboard was ridiculously close right now.
Mao and Elizabeth were changing positions on the scoreboard with every new tech discovered by either one of them. Mao took a temporary lead when he captured the city of Xian from Lincoln, bumping him 50 points ahead. His war weariness was crazy high though, 9 unhappy faces in the city of Beijing. Amusingly enough, if Mao signed peace with Lincoln, then he'd lose all of those unhappy faces and he could simply grow into an unassailable score lead. The ongoing war was actually killing the sole remaining Chinese leader.
Here's what the Statue of Zeus can do to an AI leader in these games. Mao couldn't grow a single city over size 13 due to crushing war weariness unhappiness. (Chendu was size 19, you say? That was Mao's Globe Theatre city, the only one exempt from war weariness.) He was researching towards Facism, perhaps he would choose to go into Police State civic to solve some of the problem. Mao was actually winning on the battlefield against Lincoln, despite having only just finished Assembly Line tech. His rifles had been beating Lincoln's tanks, again due to pure raw numbers. It was the domestic situation that was slowing Mao, not his tactics.
Mansa Musa finally popped into Free Speech civic - egads, he hadn't been running it before?! What kind of cultural attempt was this? In any case, it sliced quite a few turns off of the finish date. Now he was scheduled to hit Legendary status in the third city on Turn 321. We were hitting true endgame here.
In such a close score race, every population point and every tile of territory mattered. Mansa's expanding culture was stealing away tiles from Elizabeth, very slightly dropping her score here and there. Mansa had also culturally flipped two cities already, Canterbury and Baoding. The English city of Goth had somehow resisted for decades on end, sitting with 5% chance of revolt every turn for the last 50 turns without ever hitting the mark. Elizabeth couldn't afford to lose that city, considering how tight her competition was with Mao. She was only 30 points behind in this screenshot, and the margin seemed to swing back and forth by the turn. Now Mao's recent conquest of Xian was out of resistance, and that was a bad thing because the 13 population there began to start starving down. Elizabeth once again retook the lead! How in the world was this going to end?
As the final turns ticked down, Elizabeth began to open up a score lead over Mao. It was tiny at first, but slowly began to grow turn by turn. She soon cleared 100 points ahead, then 200 points. Mao's cities were simply too undersized, his cities of population 11-13 could not compete with Elizabeth's multiple cities of population 15-22. Furthermore, Elizabeth's tech was still advancing while Mao's research had largely stalled out. The Statue of Zeus was singlehandedly swinging an entire game result here! Mao desperately needed to capture another city for more score points. He tried to take Los Angeles, only to get pounded by tanks and Navy SEALS. Hey, they actually did something in a game for once! The American counterattack was simply too strong. The two eastern leaders were at a complete stalemate, Lincoln couldn't conquer any of Mao's cities, and Mao couldn't take any of Lincoln's cities. Mao was going to fall short.
Mansa Musa kept holding useless UN votes on non-victory resolutions, ruling out that possible avenue for victory. It was indeed going to be culture, after all. Kumbi Saleh went Legendary on Turn 312, and Timbuktu went Legendary on Turn 314. Mao revolted into Police State civic on Turn 316, but it was too little, too late. Maybe if he'd done so 25 turns earlier he could have grown his population back. No point now though. Niani hit Legendary status on Turn 320, and that was the end of the game.
Cultural victory on Turn 320, our first game to finish via culture! It was nice to see a different way that the game can end, some of the predictions were beginning to suggest that the AI would never take a game through culture. The city of Goth did flip to Mansa Musa in the final turns, giving him a total of three cities taken by cultural assimilation. This wasn't enough to push Elizabeth out of the top place in score though. Mansa never fought a single war against anyone the entire game. It was pretty much the ideal scenario for Mansa's style of gameplay.
This was our first game where the score leader didn't end up winning the match. The past games have suggested that score really is a reasonable proxy for overall AI strength. Mansa was the first one to defy the trend, winning with the least territory and the fewest cities. Very impressive from him, Mansa's definitely one of the most dangerous leaders in the game with a small amout of land. Looking back at the way this one played out, I think that the single biggest factor was the consistent unhappiness problems affecting Mao. The red Chinese had the largest empire by far after swallowing Alexander, and in most of our previous games that led to an overall snowball first into the top spot on the scoreboard, and then a victory. This didn't happen to Mao for two reasons. One was the crippling unhappiness affecting his empire, from a combination of Emancipation civic and Statue of Zeus war weariness. I'm coming to believe that the Statue of Zeus is the single most important wonder for these AI games, they simply cannot deal with the unhappiness that it generates in these long conflicts. (The AI always takes huge losses in its wars because it has no idea how to trade units intelligently, and therefore the Statue of Zeus always causes major problems.) I'll definitely make sure to identify who gets that one in all future games.
The other big reason why Mao couldn't snowball this game effectively was the quality of the opponents that he was up against. To put it simply, leaders like Mansa and Elizabeth were much stronger economically than Mao's competitors in his last game, where he was fighting leaders like Churchill and Cyrus. Mansa Musa in particular forced a blistering tech pace despite his small size, and Elizabeth was almost as fast. These leaders didn't give Mao the same kind of time that he had in Game Eight to build up his economy over an extended period of time. The clock was ticking down to a Cultural victory, and it ran out after 320 turns. The ending turns were a race to see who could pile up the most score points, and Mao simply had too many issues with unhappiness to secure the top spot. Elizabeth also made a smart move to take over backwards Qin towards the end of the game, Mao would have emerged as the runner up if she hadn't done that. As for Lincoln, he was never able to put himself in a position to win this game, but he sure slowed down Mao and screwed over the Chinese leader. I never would have pegged Lincoln as a leader to troll someone else!
Here are Mansa Musa's endgame Demographics for comparison purposes. Note that he was last place in everything... except GNP. Not surprising for Mansa.
Finally, here's a screenshot demonstrating the terrible war weariness affecting Mao at the end of the game. This right here was the difference between Mao and Elizabeth on the scoreboard. In every Civilization game ever made, population equals power. Mao's empire was performing far under capacity because he couldn't scrounge up the happiness needed to grow his cities. Next time, don't wait until the last four turns of the game to adopt Police State civic!
1) Mansa Musa
3) Mao Zedong
One more playoff game yet to go. We now have four of the six leaders set for the championship match. In an admittedly tiny sample size thus far, the winners from the opening round of games have been outperforming the second place leaders here in the playoffs. Winners from our initial games have finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, and 4th, with only one of them getting killed off (Huayna Capac). Runner ups from the opening round have finished 1st, 2nd, 5th, 5th, 6th, and 6th, with four of them dying in the process. Justinian and Elizabeth are the only ones who haven't died in their respective playoff games. While the numbers are too small to make any large conclusions, it does suggest that the outcomes of these games aren't purely random. Some AI leaders genuinely tend to perform better than others. We've got one more playoff game upcoming to test that further, then the championship after that.