Civ4 AI Survivor Season 3: Playoff Game One Preview

This is a new feature for Season Three 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.

This is the first of three playoff games for Season Three, bringing together the top two finishers from the opening round matches. Our previous winners included Stalin in the northeast, Justinian in the southeast, and Wang Kon, the shocking winner of Game Seven, in the northwest. The other three leaders all wound up in the runner up spot in their respective matches. The overall group was a mixture of leaders with different peace weights and strategic approaches to Civ4. Asoka and Justinian are religious zealots, Hammurabi likes to sit in the corner and build wonders, Stalin is obsessed with espionage, Shaka is a crazed warmonger, and Wang Kon is the greatest troll in AI Survivor history. I expected that the following match would be memorable in some sort of insane way.

Asoka of India
Season One Opening Round: Third Place
Season One Wildcard: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Second Place
Season Two Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Second Place
Total Kills: 1
Past Finishes: Season One (24), Season Two (13), Overall (12)

AI Summary from Season One: Asoka is the less famous of the two Indian leaders, also probably the leader most commonly thought to be a member of the opposite sex. I can't even remember how many people on the CivFanatics forums thought that Asoka was a woman, it must be the long hair. Anyway, Asoka has Spiritual and Organized traits, a pretty nice pairing with good economic benefit. He has the Fast Worker unique unit and the Mausoleum unique building, both of them well above average for unique replacements. When played as an AI, Asoka heavily favors religion and culture. He has religion and science flavors for his research, and with Mysticism as a starting tech, Asoka will very commonly found his own faith at the start of the game. Asoka AI also likes to demand that others convert to his religion (8/10 rating), loves to build wonders (8/10), and doesn't hold much interest in units (2/10). Asoka has a low aggression rating at 3.7 out of 10, and he's considered to be a "Good" leader on the peace weight alignment scale. Asoka is another one of those AIs who will do very well if left alone, but has a tendency to get run over by more militaristic leaders when he focuses too much on religions and wonders. Either case could play out here.

Hammurabi of Babylon
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Third Place
Season Two Wildcard: Seventh Place
Season Three Opening Round: Second Place
Total Kills: 1
Past Finishes: Season One (44), Season Two (23), Overall (37)

AI Summary from Season One: Hammurabi was one of the few leaders included in the original Civilization game, and I always thought it was unusual that he didn't reappear in Civ4 until the Beyond the Sword expansion. Hammurabi has Aggressive and Organized traits, a decent second-tier pairing, particularly in the hands of the AI. Hammurabi is the only Babylonian leader, and makes use of the Bowman unique unit archer, and the Gardens unique unit colosseum. These are both pretty bad, and the only reason anyone ever picks Babylon in our events is for their awesome starting techs (Agriculture and The Wheel). Hammurabi AI is another one of the rare leaders with only one flavor: CULTURE. He'll heavily emphasize researching techs with a cultural bent to them. Hammurabi's AI otherwise looks like a carbon copy of Augustus, with the same heavy wonder focus (8/10) and a slightly higher aggression rating (5.5 out of 10). He also shares the identical peace weight as a "Good" leader. Basically, the Hammurabi AI will hope to win through peaceful or cultural means without being attacked by anyone else. Not one of the more interesting AIs.

Justinian of the Byzantines
Season One Opening Round: Second Place
Season One Playoffs: Winner of Game One
Season One Championship: Winner of Season One Championship
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Four
Total Kills: 5
Past Finishes: Season One (1), Season Two (36), Overall (12)

AI Summary from Season One: Here's the wildcard player for this particular round. Justinian has Spiritual and Imperialistic traits, and as the only Byzantine leader is renowned for bringing the mighty Cataphract as his unique unit. (He also has the unimpressive Hippodrome unique building.) We generally don't favor the Byzantines anymore due to their awful starting techs of Mysticism and The Wheel, but this doesn't matter for the Deity AIs, who all start with Agriculture, Wheel, Hunting, and Archery. Justinian AI has religious and military flavors, and heavily emphasizes building units (8/10 rating). He's well above average on the aggression rating at 7.6 out of 10, which is modest only in comparison with his eastern neighbor. Justinian also has Theocracy as his favorite civic, which means he will never go to Free Religion. In short, Justinian is likely to found his own religion, and then hate everyone else who doesn't have it for the rest of the game. Expect him to dominate the game or get swiftly crushed depending on how diplomacy shakes out.

Season Three Addition: Justinian was our champion from Season One with a very impressive showing. He was unable to follow up that performance in Season Two, eliminated immediately in his first game. We'll see if he can get back to his earlier winning ways this year. As it turned out, Justinian won a crushing victory in his opening round match of Season Three. This next game will be a chance to return back to the Championship once again.

Shaka of the Zulus
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Winner of Game Five
Season Two Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Second Place
Total Kills: 1
Past Finishes: Season One (31), Season Two (11), Overall (17)

AI Summary from Season One: Shaka's in this game too, having somehow found his way into the playoffs for the second season in a row. Shaka has Aggressive and Expansive traits, a pairing that's caused him to see occasional use in some of our Pitboss games. Shaka's Zulu civ is often seen as one of the best in the game, packaging the fast-moving Impi along with the Ikhanda for a unique building. It's a shame that the AI doesn't know how to use these effectively, as Shaka was a universal ban on the Multiplayer ladder back in the days of the Warlords expansion. Shaka AI looks much like Temujin AI and Montezuma AI, with only a single flavor: MILITARY. He has a rating of 10/10 for unit emphasis, and an aggression rating of 9.2 out of 10, good enough for fourth place in the entire game. Like Temujin and Montezuma, he also has Police State as his favorite civic. If any of these leaders build or capture the Pyramids, they'll choose that civic for the rest of the game. Shaka's only real difference is that he doesn't make much in the way of demands. These guys are all totally nuts, and should be a sight to watch. Shaka's opening round victory in Season Two of AI Survivor remains one of the most shocking results we've ever seen in this competition.

Stalin of Russia
Season One Opening Round: Second Place
Season One Playoffs: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game One
Total Kills: 4
Past Finishes: Season One (17), Season Two (42), Overall (31)

AI Summary from Season One: Stalin's traits are Aggressive and Industrious, a bit of an odd pairing without too much in the way of obvious synergy. Stalin also employs the same Russian unique stuff as Catherine, with the Cossack and the Research Institute. As an AI, Stalin predictably has military and production flavors. He is unsurprisingly rated as a rather aggressive leader (7.6 out of 10) and as an "Evil" leader according to peace weight. Stalin and Ragnar might turn out to be good friends in this game via peace weight, and certainly neither one will be able to stand the sight of Asoka. Interestingly, Stalin AI doesn't care much about religion at all, as befitting a good Communist. He gets few benefits from shared faith and little in the way of penalty from differing religions. Otherwise, Stalin's numbers are pretty average across the board, except for his massive love of espionage spending (10/10!) It's a fairly well constructed AI personality based on the historical persona. In a game where so many other AI leaders will be battling over religion, Stalin will opt out of the race altogether and do his own thing.

Wang Kon of Korea
Season One Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Two Opening Round: Eliminated
Season Three Opening Round: Winner of Game Seven
Total Kills: 2
Past Finishes: Season One (25), Season Two (33), Overall (29)

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

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

Justinian is the runaway favorite from the community to win this initial playoff game. Throughout Season Three, that's usually spelled doom for the popular choices - will Justinian be the next leader to fall victim to this community curse? No one seems to have a clue who will come in second, and Asoka is the popular pick in the First to Die category. At the time of this writing, we had an exact split between Domination and Spaceship for the victory condition. 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!

Eauxps I. Fourgott: I really want Asoka to finally get a win, so I'm saying that with a safe western border, he pulls out the culture victory, while Justinian crushes Stalin, Shaka, and part of Wang due to religious differences to be the dominant AI and take second place as he attempts to retake his crown. Instead of logically attacking one of his high peace-weight neighbors, Shaka will throw himself against Stalin to stagnate them both and help the latter be FTD when Justin enters the picture. Fairly peaceful game with an early finish. I know there are a lot of logical flaws in this prediction, but I haven't had a shot in the contest for ages anyways.

Quagma Blast: TROLL KON KILLS SHAKA, WINS GAME, TROLLS JUSTINIAN WHEN HE DERAILS BYZANTIUM'S CULTURE WIN BY DECLARING WAR WITH HIS SPACESHIP ON THE WAY (honestly I have no idea, I'm just going to guess the most outlandish thing in hopes that the recent streak of absurd games continues.)

Kuro: Every since Wang Kon trolled the hell out of Season 2, I have considered joining the Church of the Troll. With His glorious victory which transcends trolling of mere AI, I have decided I must vote Wang Kon to win any games he is in for the rest of Season 3. So, how does Wang Kon win this game? Shaka is right next to him and he's a Good leader. Shaka also falls behind a lot. End result: Shaka war decs on Wang Kon, who himself is decently aggressive, and fails to get anything done. The King of All Trolls techs up and crushes Shaka later. Justinian, at the bottom of the map, eats Asoka due to different religions and they end up dominant. Wang and justinian have different religions and war, but Wang comes out ahead due to being up in techs and runs away due to absorbing Justinian's empire. Stalin's lack of interest in religion keeps him out of wars and Hammurabi exists, I'll take Stalin here. Wang Kon then straps a bunch of Hwachas to his throne and blasts off into space on the turn of...the 8-ball says 313, as it is Friday the 13th. 18 wars there shall be, no more, and no less. There shalt not be 16 wars, nor shall there be 17 wars. 19 wars is right out.

Methoz: Shaka will pick a fight with Asoka and get dog piled by Wang and Hammurabi who split his territory then move on to carve up Stalin who was aggressive toward Justinian. After a couple more minor religious related fights it ends with a fairly quick Space win from Wang Kon.

LinkMarioSamus: What seems most guaranteed to me is that Justinian will attack Asoka early: They will both found early religions and Justinian is of course a religious zealot. Asoka may survive a while but he will be ground down eventually, so I'm picking him for first to die. I really wanted to pick Stalin and Shaka to win, but I'm having a hard time seeing Justinian lose to these guys - he has by far the best track record here. Yes, famous last words on Huayna Capac, but if the Wildcard Game is any indication, past success is going to matter more and more in these later rounds. Still picking Stalin for second because he might team up with Justinian to kill Asoka and Shaka might bang his head against the Korean stone wall for a while.

ArtDeco: Chances are Asoka will out tech everyone with huge score difference only to train zero army to get destroyed by Orthodox coalition Stalin and Justinian I, as Shaka slows down Korea only to get slowed down more by Babylon and eventually get destroyed by mid game turn 200. Justinian I will never like Hammurabi and Wang Kon and eventually destroy them with Stalin only to end up surviving with Stalin and hating Russia after turn 300 to win domination via nukes.

Smosism: WK has no metals to be found around his capital and has a block of jungle south of him, so he's probably gonna be too weak when shakalaka starts declarings wars on him. Both of them plus stalin and asoka are gonna be warring one another I feel. Asoka also has religion troubles with his neighbour Justinian, which is probably gonna use the AP to his advantage again, piling with stalin on him. Hammurabi is so isolated and protected from harm with WK and asoka being good meat shields that i think he's gonna tech in peace and get second place while Justinian will dominate. Biggest question is who dies first, Asoka or WK? CAN THE WANG TROLL STRIKE BACK?

Faded_Outline: Wang Kon is getting swiftly annihilated this week. No Iron, No Copper, Only nearby horses in disputed territory, and a jungle-choked expansion path to the south to boot, it's almost like the poor sod is being deliberately fed to Shaka! I doubt he'll mind though, for sending that Zulu Sociopath into the championship game on the back of his developed cities is a troll-job worthy of our King.

JackDRB: Asoka/Justinian/Wang Kon(?) will all (most likely) want their own religions and I think Justinian's AI has the best setup for a "crush the heathens at all costs" playstyle compared to the rest of the field. Justinian will want to be chomping up Asoka anyway so he might actually pull of religiously-motivated wars that even make sense strategically. On the more boring side, Hammur is well placed to well, sit in place, being tucked that far into a corner, and I feel the other AI's will always prioritise the other fish to fry around them without touching him, allowing him to survive and do well but nothing spectacular. On FtD, I think Asoka is maybe more likely to actually die, faced on one side by the evil trio of Shaka/Stalin/Justy, although it does depend on Wang Kon pushing back the very possible Shaka DoW early on, and putting faith in Wang Kon in doing anything reasonable will mean doing the exact opposite. Edit: what I actually mean is "Wang Kon will Wang Kon this game leading to a game of precisely 1 Wang Kon's worth of trolling measured in Wang Kon units"

Voldymort: My name is Wang Kon. You killed my father. Prepare to die!