Game Three pitted a field of mostly "peaceful" leaders against one another, or at least leaders that scored highly in Civ4's internal peace weight mechanic. Both Indian leaders were drawn into this game, with Asoka getting the normal Indian purple colors in the south of the map and Gandhi taking the offbeat orange in the southeast. Darius and Roosevelt were the other two mostly friendly AI leaders, occupying the central and northwest parts of the continent respectively. The two outliers here were Saladin in the west, and especially Gilgamesh in the northeast tundra. The other AIs were predisposed to dislike Gilgamesh, and with a lot of desert and ice near his starting position, the viewers mostly thought he would make a quick exit from this game. The pregame opinion was mostly split between Darius and Gandhi as most likely to win, two of the leaders with some of the best economic traits in Civ4. Darius in particular had an insanely strong capital, with five floodplains, a corn resource, and two non-jungle gem tiles.
The most noteworthy early action was Gilgamesh choosing to plant his second city even further north in the tundra, a rather dubious choice. Saladin and both Indian leaders chased after the first religion, with Asoka claiming Buddhism in a tie by virtue of being higher in turn order. Gandhi placed his second city in a sweet floodplains region and founded Hinduism as the second religion. (Yes, the default normal starting religions despite having the "Choose Religions" option turned on.) Darius actually farmed his corn tile and mined his gems at the capital - what was this? An AI leader actually doing sensible things with the starting worker?! Well, he was off and building useless roads soon enough, heh. That's the AI we know and love.
Gandhi used a nearby stone resource to claim Stonehenge and the Great Wall very early on. In the west, Asoka and Saladin continued settling right on top of one another, leaving most of the east free for Gandhi to expand into. Roosevelt and Gilgamesh were slowed by their respective desert/tundra starting positions, and Darius... was sitting around building city walls despite facing no threat from anyone. He was failing to expand despite that insanely fertile start. Then Darius made matters worse by founding Christianity, diplomatically isolating him from the rest of the field. Meanwhile, Saladin settled an aggressive city (Baghdad) just south of Darius, cutting off any Persian expansion in that region. Shortly thereafter, Gandhi managed to capture a key barbarian city to the east of Darius on Turn 58:
Almost every leader in the game had units attacking Scythian, and it was complete luck as to who would claim this spot. Gandhi was the fortunate winner of this particular barbarian sweepstakes. Furthermore, most of the other leaders were running out of room for expansion, while Gandhi still had considerable backlines territory in the southeast. G-Man had been expanding directly towards Asoka and Darius, both of whom were too peaceful to contest this aggressive landgrab. Gandhi's excessive pacifism is normally his undoing in these games, but this appeared to be a dream setup for him. Would anyone stop Gandhi's mission of cultural assimilation?
This game had been peaceful for a long time. Saladin finally broke the quiet by declaring war on Darius on Turn 85 with a stack of swords, axes, and spears. Arabia was missing catapults though, and this initial attack went about as badly as you would expect. They eventually made peace after a few dozen turns with nothing of note taking place. Saladin's (and Gilgamesh's) teching in comparison to this field full of Financial and Philosophical leaders was just sad, as they quickly fell almost a full era behind Gandhi and Darius. G-Man continued to build "all teh wonders", adding Statue of Zeus, Pyramids, Great Library, Apostolic Palace, Shwedagon Paya, Parthenon, Sistine, Hagia Sophia, and Angkor Wat. He was over 500 points ahead in score by the start of the AD years, and while score points can often be deceptive, they were pretty darn accurate in this case. Gandhi was absolutely running away with the game.
There was a brief one-turn war when Asoka declared on Gilgamesh, then signed a peace treaty on the very next turn. This was likely due to Gandhi's meddling with the Apostolic Palace; even the AI isn't that capricious in normal play. Then Saladin returned to war with Darius for round two on Turn 133, this time bringing elephants and catapults to the invasion force:
Darius was once again ahead another generation of military tech ahead, with knights and pikes on hand, and I expected very little to come out of this war. Even a disastrously foolish attack *OUT* of Darius' capital city wasn't enough to put him in immediate danger. At least, that was until Gilgamesh piled on and joined the war on Saladin's side on Turn 148. With the game's two aggressive leaders squeezing Persia from both sides, Darius became the immediate favorite in the First to Die pool. This additional threat was enough to allow Saladin to capture Persepolis, effectively ending any chance of victory for Darius. Asoka would come riding in to the rescue with an attack on Gilgamesh, turning the center of the map into a confusing bloodbath, and then Roosevelt entered the fray as well, attacking Saladin by seizing the captured city of Persepolis (completely surrounded by Persian culture) for himself.
And Gandhi continued to tech and build endlessly in his corner of the map:
Those bar graphs were terrifying for the rest of the field. Gandhi was almost 1000 score points ahead by this point, and the only remaining suspense in the game was who would manage to come in second place. Normally when an AI gets extremely far out in front, they start attacking the weaker civs and continue snowballing as they absorb more territory. However, with ultra-pacifist Gandhi in the lead, this game had the bizarre scenario of a runaway civ too polite to invade anyone else. As a result, there was a very real chance that all six AIs would manage to survive for the first time ever in two years of AI Survivor competition. Most of the viewers were hoping that Gandhi would stop his endless pursuit of culture and lay the smack down on someone. That might not even be necessary: several of the core Persian cities were revolting under the constant pressure of Gandhi's culture. Several of them would flip before the game concluded.
There was no shortage of fighting in this game, just little fighting of any consequence. Every conflict seemed to turn into a stalemate with no territory changing hands. Persia was unlucky enough to be the epicenter of these wars, and their territory had been thoroughly fought over and pillaged by the end of the game. Poor Darius! Saladin and Gilgamesh also continued to fall further and further behind as more time passed, their Protective trait doing nothing to help economically. Eventually Asoka managed to reach rifles while Gilgamesh was still stuck on medieval units, and that allowed Asoka to start making slow progress in their long-running engagement. Then finally, FINALLY, Gandhi entered the fray:
As one of my Livestream viewers remarked in a League of Legends reference: "6 item Feral Flare Master Yi just emerged from the jungle." Forget about all those slow wars where nothing happened for ages on end. Gandhi proceeded to steamroll the unfortunate Gilgamesh under his sandaled heel, smashing his way through Sumeria without breaking a sweat. Darius was also in full-on collapse mode, with his core cities falling to Saladin in a clash of outdated medieval armies. Darius was safe from elimination though, as he had managed to establish a pair of cities in the deep southern tundra. Gilgamesh had no similar panic room to retreat into, and the combined armies of the two Indian leaders continued to roll over his remaining territory. Asoka managed to take the Sumerian capital, which was important because the score points race for second place was very close between Asoka and Roosevelt. Gandhi eventually claimed the leader kill, finishing off Gilgamesh on Turn 241.
This contest was now rapidly reaching its conclusion at an extremely early date. Gandhi was closing in on a Cultural victory, with three cities already over 40k culture before Turn 250! Some of these games have lasted well over 400 turns by comparison. If the game had lasted longer, Saladin probably would have been the next leader to go, given his diplomatic unpopularity and technological backwardness. It was not meant to be, however, as Gandhi's culture hit critical mass and delivered him a win on Turn 259:
Amazingly, this Cultural victory was achieved despite Gandhi not running the culture slider at any point during this game. Gandhi had been fully teching the whole time, and he was able to build tanks before this game concluded. Everyone else still had rifles and cavs, nothing better. If Gandhi had an aggressive bone in his body, this would have been a total bloodbath. Instead, Asoka narrowly advanced to the playoffs in second place, and the other three surviving leaders were relegated to the Wildcard round.
This was a strange game. Between Gandhi's passivity, Darius' squandering of a godly starting position, and the long-running indecisive wars, it certainly didn't look that much like many of the other competitions. This game also stood out for the incredibly fast victory date, with Gandhi's Turn 259 win arriving earlier than any other of the AI Survivor victory dates. Most of them took at least 50 turns longer, if not 100 turns longer to finish. I think this game confirmed what we already knew: do not let Gandhi sit in the corner of the map and build up his civ uncontested!